About Me

My photo
Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday the 13th . . . in all its glory

So, I have decided that Friday the 13th can very easily become my least favorite day . . . at least it will bring forth memories of an experience that I can well do without repeating.

It all began a few years ago, actually. We bought a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax diesel truck on the recommendation of our mechanic, who also owned one (his was a year older). We were pleased with it initially, but now, I'm not so sure. After about 65,000 miles, the exhaust started spewing black smoke with a putrid odor. Every diagnostic came back that it was fine. We drove it another 4,000 or so miles, but then I took it to Chevrolet and demanded something be done. They treated it with an additive and said that it would look and sound bad for a while, then would be fine. Result: within another 200 miles we melted a piston! We had the vehicle (which carries our cabover camper) towed to another Chevy dealer (in Escondido, CA) and were told about the damage - it would need a new long block. OK, and this is covered by the warranty? Absolutely. So, after a month of Chevy and GM haggling about the particulars, a new long block was installed (we had only to pay about $1000 for all the damage done to the hoses and belts when the oil drenched the engine). Not too long after that, we had the truck sort of rebuilt to carry our camper more effectively: a new truck bed with lots of cabinets and a dually rear end. We figured we were set for many, many more miles. Then we started noticing the black smoke again (now the odometer sat at just over 100,000 miles). Our mechanic said that it seems as if the Duramax ate fuel injectors for breakfast & to plan to replace them every 60,000 miles (at the tune of $3000 each time). But if we used a fuel additive, it might prolong the life. We did, it didn't. Or at least, that's the current assumption: then came yesterday.

Heading out of the most recent fuel stop, the engine began to make "that noise." Thank God my husband recognized it immediately: it was the one it made before our engine imploded the last time. We pulled over. Location: mile marker 144, east bound into Nashville, TN on the I-40.

Now, I have been maintaining my AAA membership for 42 years, non-stop. And we have added the RV coverage as well as the "plus" advantages. This has cost a pretty penny every year, but we figured it was a good investment. Yesterday, the investment paid off, but not without a horrendous delay. While our position on the freeway necessitated "emergency" and "priority" - they try to get vehicles on the Interstate removed within 15 minutes of breakdown - we waited 4 hours! The breakdown occurred at 2:30pm. The rescue occurred at 6:30pm. Now, to AAA's credit, they were calling wrecking and RV services all over the territory, but ended up getting in a driver from Murfreesboro (about 30 miles the other side of Nashville - and we were still 60 miles from Nashville, the driver said we were exactly 99 miles from his location). So, how do 2 adults, one with a heart condition, and 2 dogs, one with an anxiety condition, spend 4 hours by the side of the road? Let me share my day with you.

First course of action: get us (and dogs) away from the vehicle. On occasion, drivers not paying attention plow right into vehicles stalled/parked at the side of the road (yes, we were well off the highway, nonetheless, should such an event occur, we needed to be way clear of the rig). Taking cell phones and dogs and some water, we made our way to the grassy area beside the road (note: had this happened 24 hours earlier, we would have been near Cape Girardeau, MO, in a thunderstorm . . . on this date, Friday the 13th of August, 2010 . . . it was merely 100+ degrees and we were in the bright sunshine; OK, another problem, but at least no lightning and rain!). Between the 2 of us, we had 3 cell phones (I know, that's a bit odd, but I'm sure glad of it . . . I am still learning to use my new Evo Sprint phone and have not weaned off my tried & true clamshell with no camera, but lots of battery power. We started calling:

AAA - they'd be there in 15 minutes, yes they understood we had a motorhome
Rental car agencies - yes, they'd reserve a mini-van for us
AAA - still trying to find an appropriate tow rig
Motel - yes, they'd reserve us a room for tonight
AAA - they had a tow company, would call us back
Our mechanic in CA - we done good, call him with the diagnosis, when we get it
AAA - tow company can't handle us, they'll find another
Friend in Cookeville, TN (where we're headed today) - yes, she can put us up, with dogs, in her house
AAA - still looking
Friend who is attending the conference I need to be at in Knoxville on Tuesday - she'll see if anyone needs a roommate
AAA - still looking
Chevy dealer in Nashville - service bay is open till 6pm, but bring the vehicle in at any time, they will help
AAA - still looking
Another friend attending Knoxville conference - left message
AAA-still looking
Geico - yes our insurance coverage completely covers the rental car
AAA - Eureka! Oh, no, false alarm.

And so the day went. But I also got on Facebook with the Evo and put out an SOS. Once we got to the Chevy place in Nashville, we'd need to get Butch to the airport where our rental car was waiting (yes, I know Enterprise picks you up, but they had nothing but tiny cars & we needed to have a vehicle with plenty of room . . . remember, we're in an RV: no suitcases, just lots of clothes & supplies for us & dogs . . . but Thrifty rental car, at the airport, would be able to provide a mini-van). I tried to locate someone who might be able to provide that needed transportation (it doesn't help that we were clueless about Nashville and the surrounding area). Here I have to thank the many who reached out to us, in prayers and physical attempts to get help, calling friends and relatives in the Nashville area. I am so very grateful for everyone who seemed to be right there with us on the side of the road.

Finally we got the call: a tow truck driver from Murfreesboro was on his way! That was about 5:00pm . . . we'd been making cautious trips to & from the vehicle to get more water, chairs, and an umbrella for shelter from the sun, now dangerously positioned where we could not escape. We preserved battery power in the cell phones & when all was said and done, I still had full power on my clamshell phone (not anywhere close on the Evo . . . OK, I'm hard-pressed to ever give up my tried & true). Did a police car ever stop? Nope, not until the tow truck driver arrived. One very nice man in a van stopped and offered to take me into Nashville, but we said we'd rather stay together (remember, Butch has a heart condition and we didn't want to play any games with that . . . plus there are 2 very tired & frustrated dogs to consider). But the van man did park to block our rig so Butch could open a side panel and get out 2 chairs for us. Thank you, anonymous van man . . . we appreciated your presence!!!

Once the tow driver showed up (you know, we never got his name!), and the state police pulled up (he said he'd seen us earlier in the day but had to get to a bad accident . . . rhetorical, never-to-be-answered question: had we not had the breakdown, might we have been IN that accident? Who knows), they got the nitty gritty done - vehicle hooked up, us and dogs into the cab of the tow truck, etc. (Note: those of you who know our chow-mix Buddy know how exciting that experience was for him . . . he was not nice to the driver & we were afraid he'd have to ride in the tilted truck . . . but Butch held him tight and soon he settled down.) We headed down the road about 7:30pm. And Butch needed to pick up the rental car at the airport by 9pm. We were still 60 miles from that destination.

So, here's where the adventure took another turn: The tow driver said he would get Butch to the rental agency. Well, I thought he meant after we'd dropped the camper at the Chevy place, but he decided to take us, camper towed behind into the airport. Some airports are not meant for tow trucks with 12 foot high campers behind them! And he made a wrong turn into short-term parking. Uhoh. He found a safe place to pull over, talked to the parking lot people, and directed Butch to the rental agency. Butch got a car while tow driver, me, and 2 dogs waited. But it didn't take long and soon we had dogs in the back of the mini-van and Butch & I followed the tow truck back into Nashville . . . now, getting out of that parking lot was interesting and it took more time than we had waited for Butch to get the car (or so it seemed). End result: the parking attendant did not charge either of us (tow truck & towed camper or Butch & me in rental car) anything for spending 30 minutes - not really parked - in the short-term lot! What great folks! Off to the Chevy dealer/service.

We followed our rig and within about 15 minutes we were at the Chevy dealer's and soon thereafter, the camper was unloaded into a safe spot for diagnosis on Sat. or Mon. We transferred much of our paraphernalia from the camper to the mini-van (forgetting a number of things, as can be expected) and then we were headed to the motel. We arrived about 11pm, I guess (I'd lost all track of time) and I commenced to scrub off a lot of Tennessee mud. Butch went to Hooters next door (his first time in one of their establishments) and returned with coke and wings and ate our "midnight snack" - of course, we'd had no dinner - and fell into bed exhausted. Of course, the dogs had slept all day & were ready for some play, but we finally quieted them down.

Now we await the next chapter: what is really wrong with the camper? Will the truck need new fuel injectors? new engine? or will we be leaving Nashville in a completely new vehicle? I don't know right now. But I've slept well & most of the symptoms of heat exhaustion have subsided, finally. Butch, the man with heart disease, has held up like a trooper! I don't know how I would have endured the past 16+ hours without him.

Today, while the truck is being analyzed, we are going forth with the plans for the memorial for my g-g-grandfather at Mt. Olivet Cemetery here in Nashville. Then we'll go to Cookeville for the night and handle tomorrow when it arrives.

Let me thank everyone for their texts, facebook posts, and calls to check on us. We were never alone by the side of the road . . . people from all over the country have been praying for our safety. How can we ever thank you all? We are blessed. So am I superstitious about Friday the 13th? I don't think so . . . it brought out the best in a whole lot of folks.


  1. Jean, I am so sorry for your day and your delay! I hope all works out to the very best! (Mostly, I hope it is not too expensive to fix). Just know that we love you!

  2. Sandi took care of all the details yesterday with the memorial, then went back to the rig with us and helped us get all the food out of the fridge....she took it to Atlanta to put in her freezer and fridge and we'll either get it next week or she'll bring it up to us...she also took the instruments for safe keeping (not the saw tho). You know how she can be .... she was my rock. Now, after yesterday's events in the heat (tho sandi went to Walmart and bought a shade thing and chairs and ice chest and water for everyone, I have heat exhaustion for the 2nd day now. Staying with a close friend in Cookeville. I am blessed with family and friends.