The saga continues after a night in the Walmart parking lot. If you are not familiar with how we got to Deming, New Mexico, I recommend you read the Running From Kansas for Christmas post. I got up early in Deming, arranged stuff for travel, and started the bus to allow it to warm up. I never start the bus and take off, I allow it to warm up and circulate oil for at least 5 minutes, longer if it is cold as it was this particular morning (around 25 degrees).
I had everything ready for travel, Chas and the girls had planned to stay in the bed for a couple hours while I headed toward Tucson. I released the parking break, and shifted the old Allison transmission into D. Checked my mirrors and began to creep forward, when it happened… I turned the steering wheel and a loud squealing sound pierced the morning air. I had no power steering, and my brake warning light came on. I returned to Neutral and set the brake to go investigate the problem. As I walked around the front of the bus, I noticed an ever growing puddle of green dripping from the engine. I had to get Chas out of the bed to hold the hood open so I could diagnose the problem. When the grill is secured to the bumper, the hood won’t open fully, so someone has to hold it open for me to check the oil and fluids, etc. It is a simple matter of removing one bolt and a safety ratchet strap and I can swing the grill sideways to open the hood, but for the initial exam she held it open. It was a quick diagnosis, coolant was running steadily out the weep hole on the bottom of the water pump, which means we were stuck in New Mexico.
My first thought was that the power steering pump had failed too, but after regrouping (and a phone conversation with my dad who had a less stressed out perspective on the matter) we came to the conclusion that the coolant dripping on the belt caused it to slip. I didn’t want to take the chance of driving it down a 4 lane highway to a mechanic shop with the potential of loosing power breaks and the ability to steer so we chose to have it towed. I called our Good Sam Roadside Assistance number and within a little over an hour, the tow trucks arrived. One truck towed the bus, while the other towed our trailer with Blondie on it. The drivers had to disconnect the drive shaft on the bus due to the automatic transmission. This keeps the transmission from being damaged by turning without the pump circulating fluid. The garage found by Good Sam was open and said they would be able to do the repair, but when we arrived they had a different story. I explained to the Good Sam representative that the bus was a diesel and needed a water pump, but he didn’t relay that info to the shop. We showed up in front of the shop and he said he couldn’t work on it, not to mention he didn’t have room to store the bus or trailer. Stress returned, but it was short lived.
Since it happened to be New Years Eve, all other garages were closed. The shop recommended by both the owner of the current shop, and the tow truck driver, was closed for the holiday. One of the drivers had the cell number of the other shops owner, and finally got in touch with him. He said they would be able to make the repair, but wouldn’t be able to work on it until January 2nd. He did say we could hook up to an RV plug on the outside of their shop so we didn’t have to get a motel room or run our generator. The first garage we were towed to happened to be less than one mile from our Walmart overnight spot. The other shop turned out to be about a mile from this shop in the other direction. Good Sam authorized the tow truck drivers to take the bus and trailer to the new location where we would be met by the owner’s son in law. We arrived a few minutes later and the drivers began unhooking the bus while we unloaded the Blondie car.
We met Mike, the owner’s son in law, and he hooked us up with power and showed us where the water spigot was located. He was very nice and seemed genuinely concerned about our situation since it was going to be very cold, windy, and snowy over the next couple days. I assured him we were going to be fine, and thanked him for coming out to get us situated. We had Blondie to run to the store, or anywhere else we decided to go, and we had electricity to run our heaters and electric blankets to keep everyone toasty.
Even with the little hiccup due to the first garage not accepting the work, the service we received from Good Sam was well worth the cost for the program. I don’t want to know what it would have cost us if we had to pay for the tow out of pocket. It was nice to know they had us covered, and were willing to accept the first mistake and make it right. I am glad the two garages weren’t 50 miles apart which would have made for a long day. Even if they had been, we would have owed nothing out of pocket for the tows, which was a nice weight off our shoulders. We are members of the Good Sam affiliate program, so if you decide to sign up, follow the link found on the right side of our page. They offer insurance, roadside assistance, and other programs for RV’s and standard automobiles and trucks, so check them out. Be sure to go through our link so we get credit should you decide to sign up for something.
We set up camp quickly and got ready to cook our traditional New Years meal. The Red Box kiosks at the local Walmart were very helpful in keeping us occupied, though they were the busiest we had ever encountered with a line that could be as long as 20 minutes. Chas got our Pork Jowl Bacon, Collard Greens, and Black Eyed Peas on to cook as we researched options for things to explore while we were in the area. One thing I noticed was a restaurant across from Walmart called Menudo’s. We love trying new things, especially foods, so what better place to get the traditional Mexican tripe and hominy stew than at a place that holds the dishes name. We tried that for lunch on the 2nd while the mechanics were researching parts for the bus and coming up with an estimate. It is not really something I would recommend for anyone with delicate taste buds, it has a flavor all its own. Since the main ingredient is Tripe, the lining of a cow’s stomach, it has a very barnyard kinda flavor. We ate it all but it took a little effort, the other food we got to go along with it was excellent, especially the green chili and cheese sauce that came with Chas’ chimichanga.
We got a call from the garage, while eating our Menudo, with the estimate for the repairs. Ouch was all I had to say. Our savings we built up from working at Amazon was getting ready to take a major hit. They did say they could get the water pump the next morning, so repairs would be able to proceed quickly. Their estimating tool called for more hours to do the job than they thought it would take, so they estimated half the labor as recommended by the software (which we were thankful for, but it made me a little nervous).
We researched things to do in the area while waiting on the repairs, the first on the list after eating lunch was going to City of Rocks State Park, about 30 miles North of Deming. The rocks were positioned in a very unique manor by an ancient volcanic eruption. We had fun trying to decide what the rocks looked like, it was neat to see some boulders positioned precariously on top of some larger ones. It looked as if any minute Wile E. Coyote would show up with an Acme lever to try and catch the Road Runner.
The water pump assembly arrived as scheduled on Thursday morning, so we stuck the nose of the bus into their shop due to the cold and wind. Mike began to remove the old water pump, I decided to replace all hoses since the system would be drained anyway. We headed out on a new adventure while he worked, going to Rockhound State Park. This park is unique since they allow you to remove rocks and minerals you find in certain areas of the park, up to 15 pounds per person, per visit. We had a hard time convincing the girls that the small pile of rocks we found exceeded our limit. We hiked and dug for rocks for several hours, most of what we found is Jasper, but we may have found a small geode too. We are going to ask some of the experts when we get to Quartzsite what they think they are.
We got back to the bus late in the day, and it was coming back together. It would take a few more hours the next day to complete the repair and test the system for leaks. We were ready to hit the road again and get to Tucson, but we sat back with another Red Box movie anxiously awaiting the events of Friday to unfold.
We got up early Friday morning and packed the bus for travel as the final repairs were made. Blondie didn’t want to hang in Deming any longer, the snow and cold was ready to disappear in her rear view mirror. We tested for leaks by driving the loop between the Deming exits, and had no issues. Now for the dreaded bill… The repairs took much longer than the original estimate, so I was expecting a much more shocking bill. They stuck with their original estimate, which we were very thankful for, so we were able to leave Deming with a little cash still in our pockets (but not much).
If you are ever in the vicinity of Deming, New Mexico, in need of repairs, go to E & M garage. They work on everything from cars and trucks to semi’s and RV’s, even the rare Scholl Bus on occasion. They are very knowledgeable with RV’s and have connections with another feller that will repair the “Camper” portion of your rig too. We were very thankful for their hospitality and ability to let us park at the shop. They made us feel at home, even though it was in the driveway of a repair garage.
After settling up our bill, I hooked the bus up to the trailer and waved goodbye to Deming, we chose to have Chas drive behind the bus in Blondie since we were just 200 miles from our next stop. The bus did great, and we made it to Tucson to set up our campsite before sunset. We were excited about going to Saguaro National Park the following morning.