I had studied the Forest Service online maps, my Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas, iOverlander, and Google Maps. The mountains between Grants Pass and the ocean, along the Rogue River, looked good. I hadn’t been there before. Yay, someplace new!
I headed out shortly after sunrise, stopped in Medford for supplies, cruised into Grants Pass, turned north, took the correct exit, and saw the forest road I wanted just in time to make the turn. Pavement turned into a nicely maintained dirt road climbing into the mountains. Good.
Then things started going weird. According to the maps, the dirt road was supposed to turn back into pavement after a few miles. It didn’t. The numbers on the road markers didn’t match well with what I was seeing. Did I miss a turn? Had I followed the wrong road? I came to a junction. The road left had a number post but the ruts were overgrown. The road ahead, with an upside-down partial sign that simply said “Road,” looked pretty good but seemed to head in the wrong direction. The road to the right felt like the right one but the numbers had been removed from the post. The road I had arrived on had a number, but I couldn’t find it in the atlas. And GPS just showed nameless white squiggles. When I punched in the town I wanted, the wizards at Garmin replied with a straight pink line between my location and my goal. Thanks, but I do not fly as the crow.
Well, rather than wander more, I turned around to retrace my route back down the mountains.
That’s when the occasional moan the Rolling Steel Tent had been making for months turned onto a howl, a squeal, a message the thing that had been going slowly bad had reached full-on badness. Shit.
It was the type of sound a spinning object makes in its final days. Water pump? Oil pump? Power steering pump? Air conditioning compressor? Alternator? Damn, I hope it’s not something with the transmission. The temperature looked good. The alternator was charging properly. I turned on the A/C and the noise didn’t change. Okay, given the problem a while back with the brake hydro-boost, which is powered by the power steering pump, I suspected that was the culprit.
I pulled over and checked the power steering fluid level. The dip stick was dry. Luckily, I had some fluid left over from the leaky hydro-boot days. I filled the reservoir and… the noise quieted. Ah, okay, that’s the problem.
But the fix didn’t last long.
I made it back to the highway and bought more power steering fluid at a small gas station. A puddle had formed under the van in the time it took me to make my purchase. Sigh. I emptied the new bottle and bought another, just in case.
Things held out well enough to make it back to Grants Pass and to a mechanic. Of course, late Friday afternoon is not a good time to show up with a mechanical semi-emergency. They doubted they could fit me in on Monday, and Tuesday was iffy, but if I could leave it… Um, no, I live in the van. I’ll come back Monday.
Do I go buy a case of power steering fluid and head back out to find a camping spot, and maybe become seriously stranded? Mmmm, no. Do I try stealthing? In triple-digit heat? No.
So here I am, at Motel 6 for a little unplanned/unwanted staycation. Woo-hoo! Indoor plumbin’ and air conditioning! Without any of that wasteful fanciness.
Best-case scenario: it’s just a leaky hose. Worst-case: it’s the pump, and they can’t get to it until midweek. Man, I wish I had one of my Mexican mechanics.
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