OH NO! Breakdown in Big Sur

Again, sorry for delay between postings, but have been trying to reduce stress levels. After leaving our oasis in Indio, we had an uneventful trip to Santa Barbara, with tolerable traffic as we passed to the north of LA. 2 relaxing days at SB camp site. A nice walk along the hilly mountainside with gorgeous views of Pacific was great, until……that crocked stick I warned Cindy about in our path appeared just ahead…about 6 ft long but not as thick as I knew rattlers were….but just as intimidating. I took pictures and threw stones at it to Cindy’s dismay. It eventually slithered across the path and into the brush. Pic below was revealed to a workman back at the campsite who said it was just a Bull/Hog snake which were ‘good’ snakes who eat rodents. But we subscribe to the theory…’the only Good snake’…… but we left it alone anyway. Got on road early on the 29th knowing we had a slow but gorgeous drive along the Pacific coast north to Santa Cruz on the Pac Coast Hwy Rte 1. I had done my research to know that Rte 1 NORTH of San Fran was prohibited to RV’s/Trucks longer than 35 ft. But this section south of San Fran was supposed to be ‘friendly’. The drive started well, other than paying $6.95/gal for diesel. Coastline was magnificent. As we approached San Simeon, home of Hearst Castle, I casually observed warning signs that continuing on Rte 1 was ‘not advised’ for tractor trailers or vehicles with wheel bases longer than 30 ft. I took it that it did not say ‘prohibited’, merely ‘not advised’. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I could see the road ahead high up on the mountain cliffs winding its way along the 1,000-ft high elevations. I neglected to tell Cindy about those ‘warning’ signs as she needed to enjoy the views and not worry about my decision making. As we began to rise along the mountains with switchbacks requiring me to take up both lanes to avoid scraping the jagged rocks on our right, I was appreciative of the material they use to construct steering wheels so they do not crush with the increasing pressure of a man’s clenches. OMG!…and I never use that phrase but it was appropriate during my silent prayers as we continued to ascend. I might also add that CA DOT doesn’t like to waste money with guardrails separating the road from sheer drop-offs. For the next 2 hours there were no remaining hairs not raised. We did find a few pull-off spots to stop and admire the views and take a few pictures….and a change of undies. We also had to make required pullover stops to let the mounting traffic behind us pass….several of them signaled that we were #1 ! But, alas, we made it to the top of Big Sur, which I recalled was towards the end of the worst of Rte 1. It was now about 2 PM. We began to descend using our diesel exhaust brake in the middle setting where I usually keep it…only engages when you let off the accelerator to save your brakes. But, we were still picking up speed so I increased it to the maximum setting which seemed to do the trick. Just when we thought the worst was behind us…..BANG! Sounded like a rock hit the side of the RV. Of course we were heading downhill and I didn’t see anything behind us of a smoke trail. As we approached a flatter area, I noticed there was little response to the accelerator. It would not go faster than 5-10 mph. I noticed the engine was beginning to overheat. Then a larger parking area appeared in front of an old motel/country store/restaurant/gas station…all in one. We pulled parallel off the road blocking the road view of their store/restaurant. Thinking it was only the exhaust break having built up too much pressure, a little rest would do the trick. NOT. I watched as red fluid began to run down the sloped parking area from under the RV. Ut-Oh! Now, to make matters worse, there was no cell signal so we could not call anyone for help.. I remembered I did have the fortitude to renew our RV Tow Ins coverage before we left on the trip. So I made friends with the store clerks to let me use their office phone to make some calls…fortunately they had a 2-line phone. So somewhere between the hot dog rolls and vienna sausages, I cleared shelf space for my emergency office suite. After going through the tow ins phone tree for about 10 mins, I finally reached a human. They acknowledge coverage and said they would call me back after finding a tow company to come to our rescue. It was now about 5 PM. The ins agent called back to say a tow would be there in 90 mins and gave us their contact info. Feeling relieved, we disconnected our car and went back up to the top of Big Sur to have a drink and bite from a restaurant on top of the cliff. We got back to the RV within the 90 mins but no tow truck yet. I returned to my vienna sausage office with borrowed phone to call the tow co. They said they had no order to respond since the ins co never gave them a confirmation, plus they didn’t think they had a truck suited for the job. Coincidentally, a supervisor from the ins co had called the store phone to check on things. After updated her on the no-go from the tow co, she promised to call me back by 8 pm, before the store would close for the night. She did and said she found a tow co that promised to be there by 9 am in the morning. So we settled in for a long night of sleep in a right leaning RV in the middle of the parking lot on Big Sur. Cindy had to turn to sleep in opposite direction so the blood wouldn’t rush to her head. I had to start the generator several times during the night so our battery would not run out, including the support of our fridge with weeks’ supply of frozen food. Fortunately we had wine and scotch. 🙂 I called the tow co at 9:15 who confirmed the truck should arrive within 30 mins. It did and 2 angels arrived in it who knew their stuff and had been doing this for 35 years, and had a custom tow truck for RV’s such as ours whose front axel is 4 ft back from the front fender. It took then 3 1/2 hours just to rig it up to be able to tow, including removing the main drive axel. There was still about 25 miles of coastline, cliff-hugging road to travel, but these guys didn’t flinch. So we departed our parking lot camp spot after a wonderful 30 hours….at least their restaurant for breakfast was incredibly good. We arrived at a truck repair garage in Salinas CA 3 hrs later who I had spoken to and said to bring it on and they could handle it. When we arrived and the supervisor looked at it, he immediately backed off and said he could not handle it since the radiator looked like it had to be replaced. Our tow guys said they would not leave us until they knew we had it at a place that could handle it. So off we went to a nearby RV repair shop that I also spoke with…a mom/pop family business that had been around 40 years. The tow guys backed it into there cramped yard and left after hugs and kisses to them…and some cash in their hands. The RV techs immediately crawled underneath to assess. Apparently the drive shaft for the radiator fan had broken loose from its steel mount. In the process it rotated the radiator fan which began to sheer off all of its blades as they tore into the side of the radiator. After multiple phone calls to rv manufacturer and Freightliner, we had a new radiator in route. Unfortunately, it was not ordered in time to make the day’s cutoff for shipment, so another day lost. So here we are a week later hanging out at a hotel in Monterey CA…worse places to be. Yesterday we drove 5 hrs round trip to Stockton CA to pick up the new radiator which had been flown in from Atlanta and deliver to the RV repair shop….all 350 lbs of it which had to be loaded in back of our Lincoln Navigator by a forklift, then reload all our earthly possessions around and on top of it for transport….golf clubs, wine box, coolers, misc and sundry other things….we were quite the site in the parking lot of the Freightliner Dealer with tractor trailers swirling around us. But we made it. Today, the RV tech said they discovered another part was needed which was being overnighted for morning delivery. Our best hope is to be back on the road by Friday, but this last needed part puts that in jeopardy. We’ll see. Meanwhile we’re making the best of Monterey as we bide our time and hope for a Friday departure. We’re keeping an eye on our drop dead date of having to be in Banff by the 19th to meet our caravan. Fingers crossed. Hope our next Post will be as we’re happily on our way to Banff and maybe salvaging a few other reservations beforehand. Enjoy the few pictures of this Post’s journey. All prayers appreciated and needed!

One response to “OH NO! Breakdown in Big Sur”

  1. OMG is right!! Glad to see y’all taking it in stride as you always do and seeing smiles in the pics. Also glad you are finding some good help out there at least. Hang in there, hope it comes together quickly. 🙏🙏


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