Warning: This is not Instagram #goals. This is real road life. Things are about to get real on here. But first, some delicious fish tacos that I made…
The only reason I spent a couple hours battering fish, rolling tortillas, making fresh pico and white sauce was because we blew out our last spare tire and were completely stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere Canada. We started our trip 5 months ago with brand new LT tires and two spares from the original tires (which were totally crusty and terrible). Three days prior we blew out a good tire and then the first spare, and now the second and final spare.
Luckily we have AAA which is such a blessing and it even works in Canada. The problem was, we didn’t have our membership number and spent about 40 minutes getting transferred between departments and sitting on hold racking up our not-so-cheap ($1/minute AAAHHHH) international minutes. It was maddening, but about three hours later we had some really nice tow people come and take us to the nearest tire store about 60 miles away. I’ve never ridden in a semi before, it was kinda fun. Kinda. Mostly, I just wanted to get back on the road as soon as possible.
The attendants at Kal Tire in whatever small town in which we were dropped off, were at first unhelpful and said that the specific tires we needed were on back order and wouldn’t be available for months. What…?! They basically said our problem was impossible and that there would be nothing they could do for us. Then, a different attendant overheard our plight, and was really kind to us. She said she could crunch some numbers and see if a slightly different size of tire could hold us over until we could get a whole new set back in the states. She spent her after-hours doing the math and emailing her supervisors to see if her potential temporary solution could work for us.
Still stranded at least for the night (hopefully only one night), we surrendered to the will of the universe and walked a few miles with our computers to McDonalds for wifi. We are constantly at the mercy of random McDonalds and Starbucks along the road. A word to the wise–just don’t eat anything at McDonalds, because it will hurt your belly and you will have instant #regrets. We slept in the tire store parking lot that night. It was super uneven and super sucky. #realroadlife.
The next morning our newly found friend Cassie at Kal Tire said that she found something that would work temporarily for us. She had the tire technicians do our truck first thing in the morning and we were on our way just like that! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–nice people are nice. Thank you all nice humans out there, you give us hope in humanity.
A few hours later… (imagine the Spongebob commentary voice)
We were stopped at an intersection and all was looking up! We were going to make it in time to meet Cees’s sister in Banff! Life was good. As we pulled away from the stop light, and went through through the intersection we heard an extremely loud BOOM! It felt like something had exploded underneath us like a land mine! We quickly pulled over and to my horror Cees said, “that’s it, we’re done for.” We got out of the car and saw oil dumping from a massive, gaping hole in the oil pan.
We came face to face with our worst nightmare: the motor that we ALREADY replaced just 5 months ago, was destroyed and spilling its guts on the highway.
A “Good Samaritan” passing by, watched the whole thing happen and stopped because he saw our Idaho license plates. His name is Tom and he told us that years ago was road tripping in Idaho and had broken down himself. He explained that good people stopped to help him and get him to a place where he could fix his vehicle. He used his Canadian phone to call around to his friends at their auto shops. No one in Grand Prairie had our motor and either way, many of them didn’t want to or couldn’t take on this beast of a problem. Meanwhile, I called AAA, once again, to get a tow truck to come for us. Finally, Tom got ahold of a guy named Chad at Full Throttle Auto who didn’t have a donor motor for us on hand, but told us to come to his shop and he would help us figure things out.
After our tow to Full Throttle, we were met by Kevin. He knew we were planning on staying in the RV, so he stayed after hours to make sure that we were set up with wifi for the night. He pushed the RV to a spot near the shop where we could reach the router. This kind gesture allowed us to binge watch all of Stranger Things on Netflix that night; we needed something to distract us.
There was a lot of doom and gloom the next day. We couldn’t track down an engine. The closest one was going to take over a week to get to us, and would have cost us a LOT of money. We thought we were going to be in that parking lot for a long, long time.
The next morning, Nicole, Chad’s wife, brought pumpkin steamers to the RV! She is an angel human. She also came with great news that they found a POSSIBLE engine for us! And that it was only 20 minutes out of town! She said that after work, Chad would go out and see if he could get it running in the junk yard. If it proved to be good, we would bring it back and throw it in the RV! Woo! Things were looking up!
I’ll let Cees takeover telling the rest of the story because I don’t know the nitty gritty details of the motor swap. Here we go.
Cees: I was able to tag along with the crew to see if we could get the engine going. Turns out, someone had taken the starter off of the truck, so we couldn’t get it to go there in the junk yard. So, instead of just giving up, they loaded it up on a trailer and brought it back to the shop. We pulled the starter off of our RV and with a little bit of Full Throttle genius, got the engine running. (you have to watch the YouTube video we have of getting it going to appreciate the miracles that these guys were working)
The motor proved to be worthy, and the next day was devoted to the swap. There were all kinds of issues getting the new motor in – we needed to weld the oil pan from the old truck (we had to use this one because the oil pan on the new engine was made for a 4×4), the oil pickup was beat to nothing so that had to be fixed which meant more custom welding, and a few other minor hiccups delayed the process a bit.
When it was all in and buttoned up, and we went to fire it up the first time, we heard something clink and clack and then KNOCK as we started it up. We immediately shut it off. We were confused because when we started the engine in the old truck, it wasn’t knocking at all. Something must have fallen into the cylinder when the engine swap happened! At first, Chad and Kevin thought it was a bolt or a washer or something that happened in the swap. I knew these guys were way better than that, so I figured it was something else. Turns out, when we put the old intake on top of the engine, there were a few pieces of our old motor that had blown up and in. They just rested there until we fired it up and they got blown down into the cylinder. Bummer, right? With the help of some sticky butyl tape, a hangar, a vacuum, a few LED lights, a tiny little camera, and a whole lot of patience, Chad and Kevin managed to get the pieces out. Luckily for us, the pieces didn’t cause any damage; all of the cylinders had great compression even after the shrapnel was getting mashed around in there.
Here is the pile of our old engine – complete with a hole in the block itself!
Here are a few of the pieces that failed and continued to wreak havoc on the rest of the engine.
Long story short – these guys are master problem solvers. I mean, we threw a big, ugly, RV-sized problem at them, and they handled it with ease.
Back to Madison now.
Madison: After all was said and done we spent 8 days at Full Throttle Auto. It was a rollercoaster of tears, joy, and tears of joy. It was stressful because our families were waiting on us in Montana and Idaho and we were supposed to meet up with them a long time ago. We kept having to tell them that is wasn’t going to work out and they should just give up on us. But, they waited for us and we were able to meet up with all of them after all! We were so devastated thinking that we wouldn’t get to see our families until possibly February once our trip is over. We are so so happy it all worked out.
Nicole was so sweet to us the entire time we were in Grand Prairie. She wanted to make sure that we were having fun and not just sitting in the dead RV being depressed. She invited us over for “supper” as they call it every night and even let us shower! Roadlife tip number ONE: never ever turn down a hot shower. It was amazing. She took us on a family walk in the park and gave us a tour of the town and took us to some cool spots. She got us Dairy Queen and we felt like we were home haha. In times like these you just wish your mom was there to take care of you. Nicole was an angel surrogate mom who made us feel so welcomed and loved. We are so grateful to their whole family.
This family is amazing. We had a lot of fun hanging out with them that week. Their girls are so adorable and funny. It was never a dull moment. They have done so much for us, above and beyond mechanic duties. We have these sweet pictures that the girls drew for us hanging in the RV. Their oldest daughter drew us a picture and wrote on the back a word that we had never heard of before. “Inukshuk, meaning: someone was here; or you are on the right path.” I thought that was the most perfect thing. We are on the right path. Sometimes life takes you down unknown roads and places you don’t want to go. Never would we have chosen ourselves to break down like we did. However, it was the right path for us. We learned so much about human kindness and goodness. We saw how this generous family cared for complete strangers with open arms and we want to be more like them. We learned about patience and hope because of the ways that we were tested during our challenge. We are forever changed because of our experiences in Grand Prairie. We didn’t know at first, but we definitely know now, that we are on the right path. Inukshuk.
As we drove away from Grande Prairie, Canada gave us a nice farewell sunset. Even though we didn’t make the choice to stay there on our own, the RV knew that we needed to make some new friends. Life does that a lot, I have noticed. We have these “grand plans” and schedules that we think we MUST keep. But the universe has other plans. It I’ve learned, that if we are able to “roll with it” we will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Life is good.
This Vlog is a little long – but it shows what #realroadlife is all about.
(Don’t mind my face, I was ugly crying… A LOT haha)