A Post from Gary: “What could possibly go wrong?”

 

Dogs are packed and ready

Dogs are packed and ready

 

Whistler ready to go

Whistler ready to go

 

Packed to the gills

Packed to the gills


Flat trailer tire

Flat trailer tire


Pete....our hero

Pete….our hero

 

Well, we finally got started on our trip, and headed up the Willamette pass….

The M-35 was loaded heavy, and pulling a heavy trailer…

What an experience for an experienced truck driver…  in some places down to second gear while the modern trucks blew past us on the uphill grades….

Whistler used a lot of fuel, but got the job done…  and we refueled once on top, at a little highway town I don’t know the name of…

After that we headed south to Klamath Falls, which was interesting, never having been there…  It was one of those towns that thinks the more stop lights you have, the higher class your town is…

Miserable for anyone just passing through…

After Klamath, we headed east, on back roads, state highway 140, and started encountering passes and more passes, in some country that alternated between dry forests, high desert, and irrigated farms growing mostly alfalfa….

The passes were incredibly slow in the WW2 era truck design..   Crawl up them, crawl down the other side to avoid having 25,000 lbs run away, with us on it pretty close to the nose….

I drove modern semi trucks for years…..

This was like a stone age trucking experience…

We ended up camping for the night about a half mile out into the desert behind a gravel pile as all the parks along the route had no over night camping signs, and we wanted to avoid the RV park in the middle of all the no camping areas, suspecting it was kind of an economic trap….

The place we camped was littered with deer carcasses and cattle bones.. The dogs thought it was OK, the humans thought it was a bit gross…

We started out shortly after dawn, thru more passes, across a vast dry landscape of mountains and plains….

After a town called Adel, on the far side of a pass, we got out onto the flats, and the trailer brakes seized up, one caught fire, and the other side locked up and blew the tire before I figured out what was going on…

So there we were out in the middle of nowhere, and used up two fire extinguishers getting the fire out…

Then I changed tires and wheels, but when I tried to start the truck, the starter motor didn’t engage, and kept running after releasing the start button, freewheeling…. not good!

So then a run to disconnect the battery terminal….

Soon after, I started loading up while thinking about the starter problem, and decided it was probably a relay solenoid mounted on the motor, and that we probably weren’t going anywhere soon…

After that, I checked the battery terminal on the post, and got direct short symptoms…  very ugly….

And along came this young guy, from the farm in the distance…  Pete, soft spoken, as decent as humans come, we discussed the problem, and he offered to go get his tractor and pull start us…  and even disconnected the offending relay solenoid…  and taped the lead over….

He also was also kind enough to haul off the blown tire and trashed wheel..

We traded emails, and he asked questions about the truck and engine, and he had even been to Zona Sur Costa Rica, where I have lived the last 18 years…

He realized that what we were attempting was a serious adventure…and he refused money for helping us…

All I could do for him was honk the air horn as he and his John Deere loader disappeared in the rear view mirror…

To me it was an exceptional experience…  after years of people problems…

To run into somebody out in the middle of nowhere,  who basically single handedly put us on our way again out of human kindness..

After that, we had about a 230 mile limp in to get to Winnemucca.  No brakes on the trailer, and no way to restart the truck if we got stopped…

And in the distance, miles away,  I could see another pass… not listed on the map…

It angled up the face of a bluff type mountain, for maybe more than two miles, you could see it was steep and long..

 When we got to it and started up it, I had to drop down to second gear in the Deuce, and doing about ten MPH crawled up it heavy loaded,  clutch slipping some, no trailer brakes, and an ever  increasing drop off…. we are talking a couple thousand feet straight down by 3/4’s of the way up, often no guard rail, and very narrow winding road… at least a 7% grade the whole way…

 I decided early on that it would be a bad idea to even look over the downside edge, and kept Whistler on the centerline so if something broke, I might have a chance of getting it against the inside slope of the mountain,  knowing that on the other side was nothing but a couple of thousand feet of death…

I’ve driven loaded dump trucks out of mountain top quarries before as a day’s work….

This climb was beyond words, and perhaps the most nervy of anything I’ve ever experienced…

I think we got time lapse shots of that climb…if so, I hope we can get them downloaded and saved for the video…because it was an incredible experience, due to the technology of the M-35, and the preceding  problems…

I related to it mentally as a reenactment experience of past M-35 drivers in wars…and if I never ever did anything like it again, it would be too soon…  guts I have…  but if I had to do it again, I don’t know if I could, having experienced it once…

The M-35 did it, but it was almost more than I was capable of being challenged with mentally..  I was shaking for miles afterwards….and did several more lesser passes before breaking out onto the high desert flats..

That’s the Mother of all M-35 passes guys….

Anyway, once out onto the flats, the Hero 3 camera maxed out on shots, and it was still a couple hundred miles to Winnemucca…  so there’s a gap there, but mostly lesser passes, albeit ranging from near 5,000 to well over 6,000 feet…

And I was finally able to get into the flats and into fourth and occasionally 5th gear…and down to second on the down side of hills….

Got into Winnemucca after five, probably one of the most stressful days of my life….

Pulled into an RV park so we could communicate and have parts sent to us by a friend doing the emergency logistics work..One of the best shade tree mechanics on the planet….

What did I learn?

That America isn’t dead yet, and never will be as long as there are guys like Pete, who knew what to do better than I did, at maybe half my age…

It was a day I learned some humility and respect too, for all those legions of M-35 drivers of the past….they were most definitely men….driving 13,500 lbs of history in thousands of campaigns…..

Anyway, so here we sit on our soft sides in a RV park, waiting on parts in a few days…

Then back on the adventure poorer economically, but rich with real experience to share….

To be continued…..

G

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