Oklahoma to Fort Rucker – A Tale of (Mis)Adventure

The Brothers Dumont

After a wonderful weekend with Mike, we pulled out Monday morning and headed for Arkansas.  Travel was pleasantly uneventful, and it was a blessing for both of us to be traveling in the same vehicle again.  We left our Fiesta living in “Uncle Mike’s” pole barn for the summer.  Conway Arkansas was our target for the day, and we started trying to locate a campground.  And we kept trying…and ended up “camping” at a Super 8 motel.  All the campgrounds were full, or only had spots for much smaller rigs.  We enjoyed a bath tub (and yes, we carry our own cleaning supplies for that), dinner on the economy, and a stop where we didn’t have to unhook.  All of the perishable food fit in the main fridge, so everything was good.

Tuesday morning found us well rested, and ready to travel. We pulled out and headed east on I-40.  A short way down the road, I mentioned to Bill that I could smell fuel “or something chemically like that”.  We both decided it was because we were driving in a lot of truck traffic.  The smell persisted, so I tried to clear the air by lowering the window.  It didn’t really help much.  I have a tendency to notice all sorts of sounds and smells, so I figured I was just over-reacting.  Then I glanced at the fuel gauge and fuel consumption on the dashboard.  Bill usually starts looking for fuel when we have about 75-100 miles left.  I realized that the digital info indicated we had less than 50 miles.  Bill was expecting us to have half a tank of fuel left.  We were watching the fuel drop by 1-2 gallons in less than a tenth of mile.  He pulled over to the side of the expressway to check it out.  Amid steam rolling out from under the hood, and liquid dripping profusely; he determined that our fuel filter cap had split.  Even trying to use auxiliary power with starting the engine caused fuel to spray.

Thus begins the Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance Fiasco.  We called them at 11:30am, and were advised that we had to call 911 before they could do anything.  We did (and that is another story), and then proceeded with the process to arrange for roadside towing for both the truck and the RV.  At least 6 (we lost count) customer service agents and supervisors later, multiple charges (depending on the agent) to pay for towing because our plan either only covered a 5-mile tow (per at least one agent), or towing to the nearest willing and able repair facility (per the others), we finally had a tow truck and flat bed on scene.  For the record, a 5 mile tow wouldn’t have even gotten us off the interstate!  During that time, we were supposed to have had a State Police dispatched to the scene, along with hazmat folks – never saw them, and never received a call from them.  Around 4:00pm, a different Good Sam agent told us we had to call 911 (again), and he did that will Bill was on the line.  The wonderful Fire Chief from Lonoke Fire Department showed up, followed quickly by his deputy – who was also a Lonoke City Policeman.  They were able to reassure the Good Sam guy that the scene was safe and secure.  Supposedly, this was the hang-up in getting help to the scene.  This turned out to not be true.  Lest you think we were sitting idly waiting for “them” to arrange everything – we were busy trying to locate the closest willing and able repair facility for our truck and a place to park the RV for the night (we had already decided that eastbound I-40 was not a suitable campsite).  A huge shout-out to Phil from Gander RV, Jerry from Camping World of North Little Rock, and Allen from McClarty Ford.  Phil listened to our plight, took our phone number, and immediately began making calls.  He arranged the Ford dealership, and secured a spot for us to spend the night at Camping World.  It took him all of about 45 minutes.  Our children are incredibly well-connected.  Beth has friends in Arkansas, and arranged for a friend to come check on us.  Pretty cool for them to drop everything, hop in their vehicle and head out to check on strangers they had never met.

The bright spot – when Zak from 365 Towing and Repair arrived, he took one look.  He agreed with Bill’s diagnosis of the problem, pulled off the damaged filter, went to an Auto Parts store and quickly returned with and installed the new filter.  Zak followed us to the next exit so we could put fuel in the truck.  This was in Carlisle, Arkansas.  We traveled about 60 miles on Tuesday.  Fortunately, there was a Days Inn that was pet-friendly at that same exit.  We stayed there. 

Bill took the truck to McClarty Ford in North Little Rock on Wednesday morning just to make sure everything was good for travel.  We were back on the road by 1:00pm, and made it to Tupelo, MS.  Thursday travel was back in the uneventful category, save for one little hiccup.  A truck pulled up and indicated we should pull over and indicated by drawing a square in the air that something was amiss.  We discovered our rear window had worked itself open and was flapping.  Easy fix, and we were on the way to Fort Rucker.

We pulled into Engineer Beach RV Campground around 5:30pm and a huge sigh of relief.  It was a treat to see Walter and Mara, and sleep in our own bed, and eat our own food.

Lessons from this leg:

  1.  Keep emergency supplies (cones/triangles) on hand in the passenger side compartments (away from the road side).
  2. Keep bug spray/repellent handy.  I forgot to mention that the roadside was infested with ticks of all sizes.
  3. Don’t sit by idly and wait for roadside assistance to take care of you.
  4. Keep your phones charges while driving.  Immediately drop a pin when you are stranded so you have your location handy.  Roadside assistance wanted to know exactly where we were, the zip code, cross-streets, towns, and nearby roads (eastbound I-40 by mile marker 179, about 0.3 miles from the Northcutt Road overpass in Arkansas wasn’t close enough).  It doesn’t matter if you are local or not – you need to know all that stuff.
  5. Keep a log of who you have talked with when, get names, phone numbers, etc.  I have a lot of thank you notes to write.
  6. Keep a good supply of water in your vehicle.  It was between 86 and 90, partly cloudy, with a heat index of 98-100 degrees.
  7. Understand that roadside assistance has no concept of what it is like to be stranded on an interstate with a speed limit of 75 mph with heavy semi-truck traffic.  They will ask you repeatedly if you are in a safe and secure place.  They have never been where you are.  The only thing they will do for you is offer to call 911.  While that might be helpful in a medical emergency, I am not sure I would want them to arrange that given the 7+ hour response time.
  8. PLEASE – if you see someone stranded on the roadside, move your vehicle over to the left lane.  If you can’t do that, consider at least slowing your speed a tad.
  9. In the 7 hours, one gentleman stopped to see if he could help.  No State Troopers came by or if they did, none stopped.  Consider taking the time to notify someone if you see a car stopped/stranded.

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