"A drive shaft makes a really interesting noise when it falls out of a moving vehicle."
Okay, so this time it wasn't actually the drive shaft hitting the pavement that made the really interesting (and definitely scary) noise. It was the transfer case eating itself followed by the sound of metal hitting the asphalt.
My friend Kaylyn is probably going to tell me that losing a second drive shaft is a strong hint that we shouldn't drive Fords. The Guppy was built on an E350 chassis; our current (sitting wistfully waiting for parts) tow vehicle is a 4-wheel drive diesel F350. I don't think the brand is an issue. The S.O. and I have been driving Fords for decades and have only lost two drive shafts in the past forty or fifty years. . . and given just how marginal some of those Fords have been but still managed to keep moving, I'm not inclined to assume the Ford name is a problem.
On the other hand, when a person is sitting on the shoulder of a highway in rural Missouri waiting for a tow truck, the jokes about FORD standing for Found On Road Dead hit a little close to home.
The transfer case decided to cannibalize itself when we were about two thirds of the way to Hot Springs. As planned in the revised itinerary, we'd spent a night in Portage, Wisconsin, a second incredibly cold night at a KOA in Newton, Iowa (cornfields do not provide much of a wind break once the corn's been harvested), and were looking forward to checking out Pomme de Terre State Park in Missouri. The truck died about 3 hours short of that goal.
What made our situation slightly tricky, of course, was the fact we were towing a 5th wheel trailer. Fortunately, Magee is small for a travel trailer. As it turned out, the towing company that rescued us had space behind its garage for storing Magee while the truck is being repaired another shop in Trenton.
How long and how expensive will that repair be? It's the holiday season. That alone is going to slow the process down. Before we'd even talked with a mechanic I was guesstimating a minimum of 3 weeks, and that was assuming no glitches in the supply chain. Even if the transmission wasn't damaged (unknown at this point; it's possible the housing got cracked but the repair shop didn't know that yet when the S.O. talked with them yesterday) and the transfer case is repairable (probably not) for sure they have to order one new drive shaft. One of the drive shafts stayed attached and dragged; the other one escaped and rolled off into the wilderness.
One good thing that came out of this mini-disaster was being reminded (again) that most people are basically nice. We coasted to a stop not far from the end of someone's driveway. It was rural Missouri, houses along the highway were relatively far apart, but we wound up close to one. Cell phone technology meant we didn't have to go ask for help, but after we'd sat there for awhile the homeowner came out to ask if we needed any assistance. We told him not to worry; we'd called AAA and a tow truck would be there soon.
When that "soon" turned into multiple hours, he came out again to ask if we'd like to come into the house and get warmed up. We went in, were served hot chocolate, and thawed out. It was incredibly cold outside so the chocolate was much appreciated. As time went by, it became clear there was a problem with the towing company. When I called AAA a second time to find out what the delay was, they gave me the name and number of the local business. The homeowner then called them to ask what the problem was and found out the idiot owner of that business (Precision Auto in Brookfield, Missouri, if anyone wants to make a note about who NOT to call in that part of the state) hadn't believed it was an actual AAA dispatcher talking to him, wrote the call off as a hoax, and never sent a truck out. He then hung up on the guy who was helping us. [My suspicion is that the AAA dispatcher had an urban accent -- the two I talked with while asking for roadside assistance definitely sounded black -- and Precision Auto's rural racism kicked in.]
So the homeowner contacted the owner of a towing company in Trenton and got the promise of a truck being out there fast. His wife then called a hotel in Trenton to find out if they had any vacancies, explained our situation, and asked them to hold a room for us. While we waited for the tow truck (that we now knew for sure was on its way) they fed us dinner. It hit me that the hotel might not allow pets, so we called to find out for sure. And they were a No Pets facility. So then these incredibly nice people offered to cat sit Bubba -- they had a mud room so could confine him to a small space. They were a multiple pet household (dog, cats, college age sons) and assured me Bubba would be no trouble at all. He wound up being there for two nights and apparently behaved himself.
After the tow truck arrived, one of the college age sons played chauffeur for us: drove us to the tow shop so we could deal with the paperwork there and then got us checked into the hotel. His father insisted we take their phone number and emphasized that if we needed more help, like a ride to whatever garage would do the actual repair work, to call them. As it turned out, we didn't need to bother them again, but it was reassuring to know there was someone with local knowledge and contacts we could contact if we needed to.
We're now in Hot Springs. The Younger Daughter took two weeks of vacation so she'd be off work when we first got here. She didn't think that vacation would include an 8-hour drive north to pick us up, but stuff happens. The truck broke down on Sunday, Tammi got to Trenton late Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning we went over to where Magee is stored and removed everything that was perishable or would be damaged by freezing along with enough clothes to last me and the S.O. for a couple weeks, got checked out of the hotel, picked up Bubba, and here we are.
I do have to say everyone we met or dealt with in Trenton was super nice: the homeowners who helped us, the tow truck guy, the people at the hotel, the mechanic who's going to work on our truck, the Missouri state trooper who spent an hour standing in the cold directing traffic and making sure no one ran into the back end of Magee. . . Which isn't actually that surprising. Given the opportunity, most people want to do the decent thing. It can be hard to remember at times because the jerks can make so much noise, but the cold, selfish assholes really are a minority of the population.