Hey everybody, we’re on the road! Joe and Amy, that is. We joined up with the bus a week ago in St. Augustine, Florida and have been adjusting to life in an RV ever since.
The trip down from Ohio took one night and two days. Joe’s father, a self-made auto-mechanic and engineering wizard, came with us for our first days. He came to help with the driving and to show us how the different appliances and devices work. He also came along in case any mechanical problems might uncover themselves once on the road. This seemed a good precaution because the RV had spent the last few years sitting idly in a corner of the Kristofolettis’ property, and the chance of it having a few kinks seemed possible. I can relate: I know what soreness can occur once I finally get myself to go for a run after months of neglecting exercise. Well, RV proved to be a little sore himself when, in Atlanta, he broke down.
It was the afternoon of Day 2. We had completed our first night on the road and driven the rest of the way through Tennessee. Construction on I-75 and too much faith in our sometimes misleading GPS device led us off track, and we exited into the city streets of north Atlanta. When we were taking the necessary turns to steer ourselves back on course we turned onto Northside Drive, a road that travels up the spine of a steep hill. RV had made it halfway up the ever-climbing hill when the engine cut out. Joe had enough time to steer the vehicle over to the curb before we came to a stop. He turned the key, the engine revved and started; we moved forward three inches and then abruptly stopped. Joe turned the key, the engine revved. The engine did not start. Joe turned the key, the engine revved. We did not move. Joe turned the key, nothing happened. We were stuck.
We scanned our surroundings: an indistinct concrete wall to the left, an intersection with a stoplight ahead of us, and to our right, the back side of a two-story building that looked like offices for people with private practices. Behind us, traffic. We broke down right around 4:45pm and it was a weekday. All the cars moved into the left lane to get around us, many with gawking passengers.
Well what do you do when your mobile home breaks down on a big hill in a busy city street? You make a sandwich. And while you make the sandwich, you call Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance program to come tow you. The program that you signed up for the day before.
That’s what we did.
As the representative asked all of the personal information necessary to confirm our membership and that she should help us, the line of traffic behind us elongated itself down the hill. Eventually she found that we were indeed members and she hung up to find a tow company. Some minutes later, A-Tow towing company called to establish our location. Forty-five minutes after that, the tow truck was there. The small man operating the powerful truck worked with levers and gears to place the towing hitch into an appropriate part of the RV’s frame where he could carry it without breaking it. While the man worked with the large metal chains and rolled all over the asphalt, the three of us watched from the sidewalk. It was at this point that Joe asked me, do you know why towing companies have names that start with “A?” I wasn’t sure. “Because that puts them at the top of the list in the phonebook, and most people just call the first company on the list when they need a tow.”
Once the metal attachments had a good enough grip on the RV to raise it onto its two front wheels, we were ready to ride to the garage. Joe rode in the cab with the tow truck operator, while his father and I stayed in the RV. Because the towing hitch had to grab the RV at its butt-end, Joe’s dad and I were seated in the front but riding backwards. Traveling that way felt like we were in some sort of rewind. What was “front” was now “back.” It was interesting and sometimes awkward to be sitting face to face with the drivers of the cars behind us. From this view, we watched sights of the Atlanta neighborhood passing: fried-food restaurants with hand painted signs, a salvage yard with crushed vehicles stacked into colorful piles like folded laundry, an auto-shop that doubled as a barber shop, and many people out on the sidewalk.
We turned off the main road and took a smaller street that followed a brown water stream. Aside from the thick vegetation, we passed a couple auto garage yards, then we turned up a hill and through the gate of the Kenworth truck garage- our destination for the night. The tow truck backed us into a truck-sized parking space and started disconnecting us. Joe’s father, aware of the mechanical problem, knew that we had broken down because we were on a hill. He knew that the RV would start without any trouble since we were back on level ground. Before the RV was even unhooked from the rig, he fired the engine up and listened to it roar. I pointed out that the tow-truck driver was still lying underneath the vehicle working at the chains. As Joe’s father made claims of getting us back on the road that night, Joe and I asked the tow-truck driver for directions to the highway and his business card. The driver explained that we should go back the way he had brought us, down the smaller road. “When you get to that intersection where I turned, go right, not left where we were- left is the hood.” We thanked him, and he drove away.
So there we stood among rows of large semis, with the huge truck garages lit up behind us. The doors were open, letting one see the men working inside amidst giant lifts and hordes of metal tools. A trucking center is not an ideal place to take an RV for repair, but the Good Sam agent had sent us there because the few places that do service recreational vehicles had closed. This Kenworth garage worked well because it was nearby, on a secured property, open until midnight, and a place that had enough space to house broken down RVs.
Before we had even left Hicksville, we knew the reason that the engine had stopped on the hill. The culprit was a little piece of mechanics located near the gas tank called the Fuel Pressure Regulator. This unit sits by the gas tank to make sure that there is enough pressure to push fuel all the way to the engine. When the RV is on an incline, the FPR has to work harder against gravity to push the fuel all the way to the engine. If there is not enough pressure, the engine will stop getting fuel and die from thirst. We suspected this was what happened on the hill.
We decided to replace the Fuel Pressure Regulator.
Joe’s dad stayed with the RV to check the mechanics while Joe and I looked for the Kenworth office to see about getting the part. We told the man behind the counter our situation and asked whether they had the part. Even though it was 7:30pm, he told us that the part guy had just taken his lunch break. When we returned 30 minutes later, the part guy told us that they did not have the fuel pressure regulator for our engine. He suggested checking with an RV dealer or Chevy dealership, neither of which would open until the morning. Knowing that our RV wasn’t going anywhere, the man asked where we’d be staying that night. “We lock up at 12 and you can’t stay here,” he said, dashing our hopes of staying for free in our own home. He pointed us to the pile of brochures on the counter, with information for three hotels in the vicinity.
Despite his belief that the RV would probably run without problems, Joe’s father opted to stay the night. “I think we could go, it’s just the area that’s a problem. You don’t want to break down and be in trouble.” Yeah, we didn’t want to break down at night OR in the hood. So our second night on the road was spent in a Microtel Inn down the street.
In the morning, we partook in a breakfast that was the minimum offering necessary to constitute the continental breakfast we’d been promised. There were no tables; the hotel management had simply added a few cases of pastries, a few cereal dispensers, and some coffee to the leftover counter space in the vending machine area next to the front desk. Then we went back to our room to call the Chevy dealerships in the area. After several calls and yes-I-can-holds, we learned that there were only two Chevy dealers in the nation that had the fuel pressure regulator we needed in stock. One was located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 30 miles from Hicksville; the other was in Jacksonville, Florida, 30 miles north of St. Augustine, our destination.
We treated this serendipity as a sign, and got on the road that morning. It took about two hours for my eyes to stop searching the side of the road for places to pull over in case of emergency. I eventually realized that we would make it all the way to Florida without incident.
Seven hours after we left the truck garage, we arrived in St. Augustine and joined up with our friends. We were finally on the road and finally in warm weather.
The next day, we drove to the Chevrolet dealership and purchased the Fuel Pressure Regulator that had been so difficult to locate. Because the RV was working well at the time, we postponed installing the new part until the moment it would be absolutely necessary.
It wasn’t until later that that moment would come, as well as other hurdles.
through the sky, way up high, fuel pressure regulator flies.
but down below, under stow, is where his powers lie.
he is the bran of the RV, he keeps the fuel flowing regularly
push, push, push that’s what he does, and he doesn’t even have arms.