Crippled by a Splinter

May 10, 2006

Related Topics: On The Road

On my way home from another store demo (demo = in store event where we sample PROBAR®), I called Sara to see how preparations were coming for our departure for the East Coast. The white mammoth was almost ready to go, but Sara (in muffled tones) admitted the cockpit had been breached by a seasoned spy who with stealth had disabled the CD player with a few coins in the loading slot. Almost as if to taunt, the penny and dime were perfectly balanced on the angled lip of the loading slot, knowing any retrieval attempt would leave utter dismay as the coins loaded in place of a CD, but without a pleasant result of a tune.

Elizabeth has discovered her place in the terrible two’s and left me with a bit more than 2000 miles of open, Midwest states to drive without accompaniment.

Sara did attempt extraction, but like a quarter deposited into a glass box filled with colorful stuffed animals and toys, the dashboard machine was victorious and we were a few coins shy of a quarter.

A hundred miles east of Denver, I froze in a confused daze and made a quick departure from the highway. The display panel, including all the gauges, speedometer, mileage and lights joined the CD player in willful rebellion against the captain. I opened the book of Freightliner Dealers and found one just 30 miles back towards Denver and blindly trucked to the repair shop.

Traditionally, shops open early and close by four or five. We pulled to a stop, and the air brakes locked with a hiss on the dusty gravel drive in front of the repair shop. Although I knew we were in the right location, the place seemed eerily quiet and mystical as the lot was void of cars, signs or arrows directing us to a service desk or office. In fact, I wandered in dust blown winds around the building, entered several doors, walked through a few offices, and didn’t find a soul. I found a large room lit by flickering tubes that appeared to be a parts department. Still, I found no one. Finally, after crossing through three large service bays, I encountered a rustic man with a full beard and blackened coveralls. He didn’t say much, but pointed to a little office overlooking a team of five service techs milling about the shop, replacing tools in trays and cleaning after a busy day.

‘You can come back tomorrow’, the mechanic politely replied after listening to my foggy explanation of what was wrong with our truck. ‘We close in 45 minutes and I don’t have anyone to look at it’. I guess he felt some pity on our situation and some motivation to get us on the road. Within 10 minutes he and another kind man were sitting in the cockpit gently tearing apart the dash to check for loose wires. With the number of wire harnesses, connections and fuses, you’d think we were driving a jet.

It took the better part of two hours before they solved the mystery. Like a giant in agony over a tiny wood splinter lodged in a toe, we too were crippled by the tiniest nuisance. A 10-amp fuse the size of my pinky-nail had blown due to an overload on the system. The fuse was replaced and we were on our way. I was so impressed by the service and friendly approach to solving our problem – they didn’t even charge us a dime!

Just fifty miles down the highway, we lost power again. Since the day was over, we stopped in a shopping center parking lot to spend the night and drove the remaining 200 miles to the Lincoln Truck Center in Nebraska the following day.

The night Elizabeth had ruined the CD player, I spent two hours learning to dismantle and reassemble the dash twice. I never managed to remove the CD player or attempt repair, so I gave up as I reflected on a high school experience when I destroyed the dash of my fathers ’66 Beetle to install a stereo. Thirty minutes from the repair shop in Lincoln, Sara pulled out a couple small, C shaped metal objects from the CD player manual. Voila! The simple tools provided by the manufacture to easily remove the player from the dash, without removing a single screw. Within fifteen minutes, the RV was on an exit, the kids were munching on a snack and I had removed the radio, pulled it apart and discovered a half dozen coins floating around the circuit panel.

We arrived at the truck center, were docked like the shuttle to a space station, through a large black cord, which calculated all sorts of information from our computer. The high tech service uncovered the same problem with the fuse, but the result was different. No more blown fuses and no need to replace the CD player. Problem resolved. I’m still amazed something so tiny and seemingly insignificant could impair our ability to travel.

A little kid, with a little coin had blown a very little fuse…

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