As we ventured across the country starting in October, we hit some major highlights along the way. We trekked around and saw the Great Salt Flats and Mormon Tabernacle in Utah (and amazing hotpot), Split the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah/Colorado where we were able to see where mass amounts of dinosaur bones had been unearthed and protected. We soaked in some natural hot springs in Steamboat Springs and Hot Sulfur Springs in Colorado and even visited a friend down in Colorado Springs.
We left Colorado and when we got to Kansas we started having vehicle issues. We knew it would eventually happen and prepared ourselves for it. We ended up getting stuck in Topeka, Kansas for a week, getting the brake drum fixed, which turned out not to be the problem. Turns out that when the 4wd system was installed, Advanced 4WD didn’t put a seal between the transfer case to the drive-line brake assembly and we kept spewing out fluid from the overflow tube of the brake. That was a $5000.00 fix. Yikes.
We got back on the road thinking the issue was fixed, but when we got to Columbia, Missouri, things were still the same. We were still losing Transmission fluid from the transfer case. So Bronson went to the local auto parts store and we again got stuck at another hotel, trying to find out how to fix the problem. After acquiring the correct parts, Bronson and Kaden sat in the parking lot of the hotel and tried fixing the transfer case to no avail.
We left Missouri and headed out to Louisville, Kentucky. We had gotten an appointment at the local Ford dealership and when we showed up, they couldn’t take us because we are considered a heavy-duty commercial vehicle. They referred us to All State Trucks for service. We got there and had them take a look. They couldn’t figure out why we kept spewing fluid and took the entire assembly apart to find there was no seal. They also couldn’t fix it, because the parts that had been put it were not Ford parts, rather they had been made specifically for our build up by Advanced 4WD and we’d have to take it back to Utah to get them to repair/replace it. They ended up putting an overflow filler tube in to recirculate the ATF fluid we kept losing. A temporary fix until we could get back to Utah.
Finally we were on our way. We got to Virginia and started our American History tour. We went to Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg. After spending time exploring around that general area, my laptop decided that it didn’t like the new hardware I had put in it, and it fried the logic board. Now I had to buy an entirely new laptop to replace my old one. I use a Mac, so it’s not cheap and I have some very important documents on it, so I couldn’t just go buy a PC (proprietary issues and all). There went more money.
We left Williamsburg and headed up to Philadelphia and hit Mount Vernon along the way. We were able to see the tomb of where George Washington and his family are entombed and tour his home. We even got to see original furnishings including the bed in which GW died. It is an amazing estate. When we got to Philadelphia, we checked out Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and got to take a tour. We went to the Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell and Penn’s Landing. We even went to Benjamin Franklin’s old alley way to where he used to live and we toured Betsy Ross’s house. It was a successful 5 days in Philadelphia, complete with Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and a case of the pukes. We got to taste beer that was still made from the old recipes that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson used when they brewed their own beer.
We left Philly and started heading to Washington DC when we lost power in the Ambulance. We couldn’t figure out why we weren’t getting any turbo boost. We just had everything fixed during the bullet-proofing process before we headed out in September. We limped the vehicle in to the campground and set up camp. We found a great dog sitter and became quick friends. She watched Roxy all week while we went and saw the sights. We would drive every day to drop the dog off and park close to the metro and take metro into the city down to the National Mall.
While in DC, we toured the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Capitol. It was fascinating. Did you know that pre-9/11, during one house session, representatives from Puerto Rico brought in guns and shot a couple of people during session? I didn’t. They still have the hole in the ceiling and a hole in the desk where the Majority Leader sits as a reminder. You can’t take pictures in there for security reasons. You’re searched and required to leave all electronics out with the security detail. They return your things on your way out. There are two cameras, (which is what we view on C-Span) that are allowed in the room. Members of the press can have their phones and laptops, but are not allowed to take photos. Even the Congressional staff aren’t allowed to have their phones with them.
Security is tight, the lines aren’t long and they move quickly. Everywhere you go has security scanners and metal detectors. If the scanner isn’t available, security searches your bag. On the plus side, all these things are free. We visited 4 of the 17 Smithsonian Museums and those are all day trips in themselves. You can actually see DC for pretty cheap, minus the food. We wanted to take a tour of the Washington Monument, but it’s closed until Spring 2019 for repairs. We walked along the reflection pool and went to Lincoln Memorial. We even took a couple of days to just chill out and do nothing. But I think a highlight for Kaden was the International Spy Museum. This is not free, but it’s pretty reasonably priced. We even paid for a package that let us be spies for an hour. It was actually pretty fun.
About the 4th day in DC, we noted that while driving, we could barely accelerate and we were barely climbing small hills at less that 20mph. Again, we took the vehicle into the shop and had everything looked at. We replaced the Backflow sensor, when that didn’t work we stopped at the auto parts store, bought and replaced mass airflow sensor. That didn’t work either. There went another $700.00. We brought it back to the shop the following Monday. They ran a ton of diagnostic tests, pulled and cleaned the EGR, tested it and made it actuate. Then they pulled and replaced the turbo because main shaft had broken loose. However, that didn’t solve the power boost problem either. It improved the boost, but when they drove it after letting it warm up, the turbo boost was still failing. They resorted to trying to find an electrical issue. We are now in day 3 of it being in a shop and having to get a hotel. Another thing that sucks? We returned to our campground to get our chairs that we had left there and when we got back, they were gone! Somebody likely stole our nice camping chairs!
We seem to be hemorrhaging money left and right and all I want to do is gorge out on the most unhealthy, artery clogging foods most days. We knew this would happen, but it’s still incredibly frustrating when it does. We are not happy.
After getting our bill from the repair shop, it seemed they took pity on us and charged us for a quarter of the labor and just replacement parts. Thank goodness, because I was dreading having to pay $5k. We got out with barely a scrape and only paid $1800.00. However, 4 days later, that Turbo blew on our way to Asheville for the Overland Expo East and we had to rush it in to the Ford Dealership first thing Tuesday morning.
Those guys at Asheville Ford were awesome. They replaced the turbo (again) and found the EGR cooler had a crack in it causing it to leak, and bleeding enough that we kept losing power. This was just checked by the other repair shop and had been fine for the last 4 days. These guys worked diligently all day and put some overtime hours in and had us on the road the next morning. Yay! Only one night we had to pay for a hotel on this breakdown! I call that a win.
We did, however, walk out and had to pay $3800, with $2100 of it being labor. Well, so much for not paying the 5k… We made it to the expo and had a very rainy, wet and muddy weekend! All in all, the show was a success. We made some friends along the way and got some very valuable information from some of the vendors. A must do for anyone wanting to travel the world by vehicle, especially if you plan to be off grid like us. More on that in the next post!