The 1992 Dodge Diesel Diaries: Day 2

Fried fuses, carrot nubs and dead dials. Today marks Day 2 of mules Brick and Cracker and my truck journey from from Idaho back to North Carolina.

Old truck salad: fuses and carrots. Instead of eating too much fast food crap on road trips, I munch on carrots as I drive. I toss the tops on the floor next to the blown fuses that are part of every old truck journey. When ever I stop to swap out a newly blown fuse, I feed the mules the carrot nubs.
Day 2’s run: Rawling, Wyoming to Grand Island, Nebraska (Google Maps)

We made 500 miles.

From Mule Power to Horse Power

Rambling the country with mules, the path ahead is what you focus on: keeping hooves out of holes, trying not to get flattened by tractor trailers and finding a place to sleep at night. Hauling my mules home in my truck and trailer has given the voyage a mechanical twist. The new focus is keeping my 1992 Dodge D250 heading up the road.

Keeping my quarter century old Dodge rolling home has become the entire focus of my days: dials need to point in the right direction, lights need to work and bad smells better as hell not be coming from under my hood. Yes, at day’s end, mules Brick and Cracker need feeding and watering.
But for the most part, my undivided attention is getting my 6 cylinder mule headed back to North Carolina.

From Vacay to Haulin’ Mules

My truck has had a splendid vacation. The past 7 months, as I’ve been writing to you about my mule ramble, it’s been parked in the tractor shed back in western North Carolina. A neighbor fired it up every other week just to remind it of it job.

So it sputtered in surprise last week when I jumped in to it, fired it up and drove it 2,200 miles from North Carolina to Idaho to pick up my mules. Those shudders are still running through the ol rig’s system.

The thing about an old truck is that you know the hiccups are coming. This makes you really soak up the good moments when everything lines up. The simple times. Like when the speedometer and the fuel gauge both work. It’s like playing cards. Look a Two of a Kind! Of course when all the dials are engaged, that’s a Full House.

So I’m driving along though eastern Wyoming taking all this in. The gauges are all working: Full House! Terrific. The scenery is early winter Great Plains and I’m soaking it all in on a carrot nub covered bench seat.

My view 10 hours per day. I like. I like.
A wintry Wyoming landscape. Good thing I had a coat on. Did I mention the heater doesn’t work so hot?
From behind the steering wheel, I have a hard time imagining I crossed snowy mountains like these only a month and a half ago.

Beside me is a cooler of pepperoni sandwiches I made so I don’t have to eat convenience store food. All looks well in the rear view mirror.

A hat, a map, a cooler and some home made sandwiches: the cooler doubled as a wagon seat during my 14 month Lost Sea Expedition TV series.
Check, check: all is well back there with the trailer.
Working dials! The speedometer says 50 mph. You have add 10 miles to that. I’m actually going 60 mph. Okay, I was going down a hill. That’s nearing top speed for the old Ram.

All is well with the world then I hit a bump and….crap….no speedometer. And all the other gauges look wonky. The just-filled tank reads half full and the oil pressure gauge reads so high my oil lines should be exploding like a garden hose hooked to a fire truck.

Speed = 0.
Oil Pressure (top right) = bonkers high
Voltage (top left) = 0

Crap.

So I ease in to the next gas station and check the fuse box. I pop out the fuses one at a time because I can’t tell which one powers what but they come out easily because I’ve done this a lot lately.

Fuse City: I need to just go ahead and tuck a pair of reading glasses alongside the fuse box – along with the screw driver I use to drop it from under the dash.

I pull 20 amp fuses and 15 amp fuses and 10 amp fuses but they all look fine. Hmmm…..

And then the narrator of the Mule Man’s Guide to Shonky Truck Repair (I just made that up) says “check the back of the fuse box”. And I do and I’ll be to go to hell, there’s a wire pulled loose from the fuse box.

The source of all our problems: this wire powers all the gauges.

I pop the wire back on where it belongs and the 1990s vintage gauges salute me with crisp readings. Terrific! This makes me feel like a real pro so I screw everything back together real fast before my veneer of capability wears through, exposing me for the shallow-skilled mechanic that I am.

See, you could have figured that out.

Where to From Here

Tonight the mules and I are spending the night at Kenn and Angie Frederick’s Frederick Ranch. Much as I love my old truck, it’s been great to swap the bench seat for a hay bed. Like last night, I’ll be sleeping in the back of my trailer. My sleeping quarters will be where Cracker stood all day.

Brick and Cracker have been real troopers behaving in the trailer as I deal with my truck’s occasional neurological hiccups.

Brick’s nose and Cracker.

Tomorrow we head toward St Peters, Missouri, outside St Louis. The plan is to overnight at Pearl Drive Stables.

Yes, I’ve got the spare fuses ready.

A proper ash tray with molded plastic humps for holding your cigar. It doubles nicely as a fuse holder.

As I wrote in the Day 1: Driving Home post yesterday, a few boxes of fuses are way better than truck payments or $50k cash for a new truck.

Missed Connection

To the lady who recognized my truck in the Grand Island parking lot tonight (so sorry I’m blanking on your name right now), I wish you the best with your almost-as-old-as-mine truck. I sure enjoyed hearing your trailering stories and wish you the best with your horses.

I hope I didn’t make you late picking your husband up at the sherriff’s departent meeting.

And on a Final Note

In the past days, I’ve heard from so many of you who’ve followed Brick and Cracker’s mule ramble. Many of you say you’ve enjoyed checking in every few days to see what’s up.

That deal’s worked both ways. I’ve really enjoyed sharing this trip with you. It’s given me a reason to scribble in my notebook and snap photos of things I thought you’d enjoy. You helped me keep writing even when the words and photos came hard.

It’ll be with a tinge of sadness that I putt putt my old Dodge up the driveway, knowing we won’t meet as often again here on RiverEarth.com.

Thanks for riding along with me.

Bernie / Currently (November 3) Grand Island, Nebraska

PS: Oh hell yeah I’ll keep posting ’til I get home!

6 Responses to The 1992 Dodge Diesel Diaries: Day 2

  • Trial and error is your friend. There’s very much a line to be drawn (process-wise) from pulling fuses and checking wires, to rewriting configuration files for virtual servers and restarting, over and over, the web server to see if the &àé’!! web sites can once again load in all their pixel glory. The hosting server upgrade didn’t go as planned. I mean REALLY didn’t go well..

    Trial and error, baby… Keep hitting CTRL-F5 until the changes bring results. Working with mules must be sooooo much easier 😉

    C

    • Howdy Christian. Ugg. Sorry to hear of your server tribulations.
      I do have one question. Where do I find the CTRL-F5 keys on Cracker? I’ve checked behind his ears, behind his foreleg and between his hind legs. He’s getting cranky about me looking under his tail.
      Any advice would be much appreciated.
      Thanks for keeping RiverEarth.com up and running!
      Bernie

  • Hi, Bernie! I have enjoyed following your rambles for many years. I came upon you via another rambler, Bob Skelding! I have a question for you. My son transports his Belgian stallion between states and says that he needs to be out of his trailer every couple hundred miles to walk around. Doesn’t sound like you do that with your mules. Is there a difference between mules and horses in this regard? Maybe my son doesn’t have the right information. I sure will miss your daily updates. You have such a wonderful way of writing.

    • Hi MaryFaith. Pardon the delay in answering your question. You asked about how often a horse should be walked while shipping. First, I should say your son’s Belgian stallion is a lucky dude. It’s nice getting off the trailer from time to time! That said, once I load mine, they stay on the trailer until we arrive. I usually drive 8 – 12 hours per day. By the time I get tired, they get tired. I’ve gone much, much longer than this with no ill effects.
      I don’t think it’s just mules that can be shipped for long periods of time without getting off the trailer. Cowboys regularly ship their horses hella long distances without taking them off the trailer and it doesn’t seem to affect them. Still, I try to make the trailer comfortable. I bed the floor with old hay or shavings if it’s available. This softens the floor a bit under the animal’s hooves but more important (in my mind at least) makes it less splashy for animal to pee.
      I hope this answers you question MaryFaith. Always fun to hear from someone who’s traveled with me a while! Bernie

  • So fun to follow your journey.
    I am the lady who visited with you in the Grand Island nebr walmart parking lot!! That made my day!! Such a treat to visit and follow along!! Best wishes in all future adventures!!

    • Hiya Kimmie. What a wonderful surprise hearing from you. I, too, enjoyed our parking lot chat. I thought of you often my last days on the road – usually while replacing fuses and the occasional windshield wiper part on my truck. All the best with your equine and trucking adventures! Bernie

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