Tuesday, April 28, 2015

There Will Be Breakdowns! But unexpected good things can result!

When we started out on this full-time adventure we knew there would be unexpected emergency repair expenses. Everyone has them. Ordinary maintenance on a Class A (or for any RV) can be expensive, but that is part of the deal. It is the unexpected that pinches the most. And are we getting a big pinch this week!

On the drive from Surprise to Cottonwood the engine temperature on the Alfa went very high and the check engine light came on. Fortunately we were at a summit, and the downhill drive cooled the engine enough to keep going.  But, then on the drive between Cottonwood and Williams it happened again. Once again we were able to cool down and get to our destination.

Not wanting to get into a situation where we were stranded, we decided the best thing to do was to stop at Freightliner Arizona in Flagstaff on our way to our next location, and have things checked out.  So, on Monday we were up by 5:30 and drove the 43 miles to Flagstaff, and checked in to Freightliner with no problems.

Several hours later we got the bad news. The radiator and "charge air cooler" that's behind it are sufficiently clogged that both have to be removed for cleaning, and the repairs will not be completed until Wednesday afternoon, at the earliest.  This will cost about $2600, or more if other problems are found.  These units on a CAT C7 were certainly not designed for maintainability.

We checked our extended warranty, but were told that the required work was considered "maintenance" and therefore was not covered. We know radiators need to be cleaned occasionally, especially if you drive through dusty areas, but are shocked that this will require 14 hours of labor. Craig did clean the radiator once while we were at the house, but we have not been anywhere that allows work or washing since. At least not when we had the time or inclination to do so.  

Could we have just driven away and hoped for the best? Probably, but it sounded like something we would have to deal with sooner or later. Could we have found a place that might charge less?  Maybe, but who? Where? How?  If we got in trouble in the canyon lands of Utah and had a complete overheat breakdown the cost of a tow would be enormous and we would still have to have the work done.

Life is too short to be troubled by these things. I mentally keep a place in my "budget" for unexpected repairs, so paying the bill will not be a problem. 

Unfortunately were are not able to stay in the rig Monday and Tuesday nights so we went off to a Flagstaff motel row and checked into an Econolodge. There are four or five similar motels in a row, and as we drove by I choose the Econolodge because the sign said it had an indoor pool. We could see the others had closed outdoor pools.  Unfortunately, the water was murky and I choose not to use it. Also our room smells. It is not too bad, and finally I realized it was because it has not always been a no smoking room. That old dead smell never goes away.

I'm not really complaining. We could move to another place, but doing so would be more trouble than it's worth. I'm just pointing out that not everything is perfect. 

I'm writing this on Tuesday night. We will see how things come out tomorrow when we go back over to Freightliner in hope of getting our home back. 

So, what unexpected good things happened as a result of all of this?

Because we are staying in a motel, we have had to eat out. On Monday Craig Googled "Best Restaurant in Flagstaff"and came up with a recommendation for a little place with a big name: the Simply Delicious Cafe Daily Fare. It is only open from 11AM - 4PM, so we decided to have lunch there on Tuesday. It was a bit hard to find, and if you are ever in Flagstaff you would be best to go to their web site for directions.  

It was just what I needed. I ordered Lamb Stew and a salad. The stew could be described as "Mom Food" if you had a mom who could cook! Comfort food without being heavy or greasy. My salad was also great. I have to say this was one of the best meals I have had in a year of travels. 

[From Craig] My Hot Italian sandwich was among the best I've ever had.

Then another unexpected good thing happened. The owner of the cafe came over to our table and asked a common question "How long will you be in Flagstaff?".  On hearing our plight as delayed travelers, she suggested an afternoon drive  to the Sunset Crater and Wupatki Indian Ruins which are just a short distance north of Flagstaff. 

If we had not had the breakdown, we would not have had the wonderful lunch, and would have just driven north to Page. 

All of the cables that can connect our camera to our computers are in the Alfa at Freightliner, so stay tuned for our next post about Sunset Crater and Wupatki.


  1. Al at Bayfield Bunch went to BELLEMONT TRUCK REPAIR near flagstaff. might want to check with them if not too late

    1. Darn! I read that post, and which I had thought of it. Al is such a good writer, it's hard to remember that the universe that the Bayfield Bunch moves through is the same one I live in!

  2. While that sounds like an expensive repair, it is part of life on the road. Glad you are making the best of it. Looking forward to your Pics of Sunset Crater and Wupatki. Have fun Merikay, really love your Grand Canyon photo of you as your header!

  3. While the cost of time and money to get the rig repaired seems kind of high, you have a great attitude by making the best of it.... have fun and enjoy your side trips!

  4. Sorry to hear about the repair problems. But, you are right. It is part of this lifestyle and to be expected. If you have time and have not already been there, another great place to visit near Flagstaff is Walnut Canyon and Montezuma's Castle.

  5. A good high pressure air hose would probably have cleaned the dirt build up in less than five minutes.
    At least you're getting to see things that you otherwise wouldn't have.
    We only stayed in Flagstaff to tour the Grand Canyon. Now we'll have to go back to see these other places.
    Most Laptop Computers have a spot to insert the SD cards directly with no cables needed.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. The recommended method for CAT C7's is to spray both sides (back and from engine) with a detergent like Simple Green's "safe for aluminum" version, then rinse almost forever with either a good high pressure water nozzle or a pressure washer. This produces enough carbon and other dirt to deface a noticeable section of the Grand Canyon. I can't think of a quicker way to get thrown out of most RV parks, maybe even before the rinsing is done.

      I've done this at our house, and seen a decent improvement in cooling. But the speed with which the engine temp went up recently suggests that our engine has fallen prey to a classic problem of CAT engines, namely build-up of debris between the radiator and Charge Air Cooler. Expert DIYers on the Alfa forums agree that the only solution to this is removal of the radiator.

      The card reader in our MacBook Pro doesn't work. Using a cable has always seemed easier than getting the reader replaced. Sorry about the delay...

  6. Life is not without some expensive bumps along the way. But it's wonderful that you can find the good things about being stuck in Flagstaff. Hopefully you can be on your way shortly.

  7. Breaking down in the middle of no where is awful. Glad you're taking care of the problem now.

  8. Yikes. Sorry this happened, but at least you didn't get stranded half way up the mountain. We have been meaning to clean our radiator with the Simple Green method Craig mentioned, and we have a good place we can do it now. We're always concerned about doing things ourselves....for fear we'll screw something up. Maybe we'd better. We did have the radiator flushed with some sort of long lasting coolant put in...I hope that is enough.

    I know what you mean about stale smoke. It never goes away. The K-Mart here apparently has a secret smoker in the fishing department. We can't even go inside sometimes. Glad you were able to make the best out of a bad situation.

    1. Extended Life Coolant (ELC) is on the inside. Carbon and other dirt is on the outside. Hopefully, ne'er the twain shall meet.

  9. Oh yeah, repairs. Never fun, but necessary. Always good to have budget column for repairs, but sometimes it gets used up quickly!

  10. Making lemonade is a necessary skill out there :-) Glad you took advantage of the down time to see some new sights!!

  11. Stuff happens. How nice to get some great meals and see some unexpected new places.


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