26 May 2011 2.00PM Temperature 69 F Sunny, sunny & hot.
Day 2 of my trip dawned bright and early, rousing myself from the back seat of the truck and launching into my stretching routine – well, that was my intention. In real life, it was more like a fiddlehead fern slowly unfurling in the morning sun, lazy and languid. But sadly lacking most of its elegant grace.
The road beckoned and I set off once more, bemoaning the lack of coffee, and noting that a granola bar will never replace toast as the breakfast food of choice. First stop is in my favourite little town of Teslin, for fuel and coffee. Crossing the iron bridge, I notice that Teslin Lake is still mainly frozen, the edges of the lake starting to show the first signs of the continuing warmth. Next landmark on the agenda is Watson Lake, and another fuel stop. I happily cruise past Nugget City, smile imperiously as the truck breezes on past Junction 37 where we came to a grinding halt last September due to a serpentine belt failure, no such issues this time, onwards and upwards, as they say. And so it proved, for another few miles before I suddenly felt the steering wheel get heavy and unresponsive and then noticed the idiot lights on the dash were on. Cue my very best John McEnroe impression. My very, very best – at very, very loud levels. Not quite believing that it actually could happen again, at almost the same spot, I tentatively tried the brakes. Good brakes would mean something but maybe not terminal, no brakes likely means something bad. And the winner was……….. no brakes.
Muttering unrepeatable oaths and swearing vengeance on Ford, Ford employees, and anyone responsible for producing anything bearing that now despised blue oval, I limped on, figuring it was only a few more miles into town, and at least I might have cell service there. If nothing else, I knew there was a gas station at the edge of town. All was going ok, until it was time to think about turning off the road, that big dog truck takes some steering and stopping without power steering or servo assisted braking and I very nearly buried it into a parked 18 wheeler before just coming up short.
At this point, I had somehow lapsed into an illogical version of blind optimism. Maybe it was just something minor that I could remedy myself – although those who know me and my mechanical ineptitude will realise that for that to be the case, it would need to be something as simple as a disconnected hose, accompanied by an attached diagram showing exactly how to replace it, preferably with a small chap in overalls under the hood giving guidance at the same time.
I walked round to the front of the truck and all that bravado dissipated immediately, for I could see the tail ends of the serpentine belt dangling under the engine compartment. More John McEnroe moments and I think I may actually have kicked my front tyre in anger and frustration.
Of course, my cell phone had no service and to continue the day of woes, the gas station didn’t have a payphone. Fortunately, there was one just across the street. Cue a long, slightly confusing conversation with someone from Ford Assist, who can’t seem to grasp the fact that although I bought my truck in New Hampshire, I now live in Alaska and have actually dared to take my vehicle on the road to another country. Eventually that was settled, the next issue being her inability to locate Watson Lake, apparently telling her it was in the Yukon was not much help, until she became aware that the Yukon was in Canada. I could hear her sigh when she worked out that Whitehorse was the closest Ford dealer and that was 250 miles away. She did offer to phone me back with details of the tow company but as I had already pointed out to her several times – the payphone didn’t take incoming calls and there was no cell service, so she wouldn’t be able to get me. After being promised prompt service, I retreated to my truck to begin the long, interminable wait.
A couple of hours later, the guys from Rudy’s Towing turned up. Not my friend Stan from the last time, but a new guy, just moved to Watson Lake a couple of weeks before, who had only been to Whitehorse once, and had no idea where the Ford dealer was located. It just seems wrong somehow that I am having to give directions to the guy who is about to tow my truck back to the garage.
Just to complete the joy of joys, it was also raining and now I faced the prospect of going back the way I have just come, as well as wasting at least a day in Whitehorse.
My driver, Clifford, was a really interesting fellow, A First Nation Cree, recently arrived in the Yukon from Manitoba. His wife had just bought over “Sally’s Cafe” at Junction 37, and that very morning was her first day of being open for business. The time passed reasonably quickly as I learned a little about First Nation politics, prospecting, chasing meteorites and Hydro dams.
Between us, we managed to find our way to the Ford dealership, which is of course closed for the evening.
Having made sure Clifford knew his way back out of Whitehorse, I set off to get a hotel for the night and had one of those “guess where I am” phone conversations with my wife. I managed to get a room at the Westmark again and had a pleasant evening stroll around the town centre.
Next morning, I was up bright and early, and standing at the Service Department’s door as they opened at 07.30, ready to plead my case and beg for outstanding service, above and beyond their usual, to get me back on the road. As I pointed out, more than once, it was them that had replaced the serpentine belt only 6 months and 6000 miles previously – and they had assured me these belts were normally good for 140,000 miles. My man didn’t quite promise to pull out all the stops, but he did say they would try. As I walked back to the hotel, it started to snow quite heavily and continued to do so for most of the morning. Welcome to Whitehorse in May, indeed.
Around 11.45 am, just before check out time at the hotel, I got the phone call containing news of my fate. They had looked at the truck and yes, it did need a new belt (uhuh, even I knew that) but the reason the belt broke was because the cooling fan clutch had seized. (oh b*gger). The sinking feeling in my stomach prevented any of the words I wanted to say from making it out of my mouth so I was reduced to mumbling. Of course, they didn’t have the necessary parts in stock and they’d need to order them…………….. they would probably get there by Friday ! Today is Wednesday.
Oh well, another few days in Whitehorse, staying in a hotel. I guess this really does make it a holiday, and not just a driving job !
Miles driven east 213 Miles towed west 260