The post-box high — watching the ramp retract in three pieces, lifting the Vespa into its garage behind Black Beauty and locking the shiny aluminum door — was followed by a post-box low, tractor trouble.
It was thrilling to watch the forklift place that enormous box, as wide and as high as the tractor that we had only seen on paper, behind Black Beauty. Three Highway Products technicians worked 12 hours on installation. Once installed the condenser for the Air Conditioning function of our Auxiliary Power Unit was removed from the back of the tractor and placed on the back of the box. Two drivers have now asked us why the box is air conditioned. It’s not. But, bonus, the condenser is noisy and moving it to the back of the box has made it quieter inside the tractor.
The final step was repositioning the air lines to connect to a trailer, the red line for the emergency air brakes and blue for the service air brakes and the green pig tail, the line carrying the electric to power the lights on a trailer. They are attached under the box out of sight with a quick release.
We were down ten days. To get the wheels turning, MacGyver flipped open the computer to the Landstar load board and started his search, anywhere that paid, out of Oregon.
Before he found a load, he found a problem, forcing an unexpected stop at Volvo. Two sensor lights were faulty.
Since March we have been enjoying Spring in Canada and the Northern US, where we have slept with the windows open, nighttime temperatures hovering between freezing and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, not needing the heat — unfortunately for MacGyver, it’s my hot flashes — without the AirCon thrumming at full tilt. He found a load south, to Florida, through Arizona, where he could tweak the box in the driveway with tools at the ready.
We left Oregon for Reno, Nevada on a road never-before traveled by us. East on Oregon 58 climbing through the real rain forest of moss-covered trees and science fiction-sized ferns, cresting the summit at 5,000 feet, spending our last no-AirCon night at the Pilot truckstop in Klamath Falls. We left the green fields and sky high evergreens of Oregon, through California on CA 139 to Alturas turning South. Morning cloud lifted revealing fields dotted with cows, the mountains gave way to fields of green. Traveling further South on US395 to Susanville, the mountains opened up to a huge valley. Pink and adobe desert shimmered under a muted blue sky into Nevada. The temperature was rising.
That’s when the low set in. First, we were pulled over by the DOT in Nevada as we crossed into the state. Truck inspection stations are rarely open in Nevada, when they are the officers use portable weigh scales to check a truck’s weight. The officers this day were testing emission levels. I was asked to hammer down on the throttle in idle, the officer wanted to see the color of the smoke out of the exhaust. However their testing equipment is set up for stacks that exhaust to the sky, we have a weed burner, we exhaust to the roadway. The senior officer decided having his technician crawl under Black Beauty and me running the engine at full throttle was dangerous.
‘We’ll give her a free pass,” he said. We had the turbo actuator replaced a couple weeks before. The truck is running well and we expected to pass.
We arrived at the TA in Sparks, Nevada to fuel. With fuel pumping into the port, driverside, tank MacGyver discovered the starboard locking fuel cap seized up. He was pissed — envisioning an arduous trip to Arizona fueling every 600 miles until he could get it dislodged — in the process of finding a way to open the cap, starting with every driver’s friend WD-40, he slammed the passenger side door a little harder than usual and, yes, something happened to the hinge on the door. It jammed. I could tug the door open on the handle side, but it was stuck tight at the hinges.
The hinge bent? It broke? We don’t know but we can’t open it. If a new hood release cost us $500 for parts and installation, I’m afraid to ask the price of a Volvo hinge or heaven forbid a Volvo door. The jammed door is a nuisance, but many husband-wife team drivers never use the passenger door, filling up the wheel well and the seat with a cooler and other items, using it like a den or a pantry, both sliding in and out of the driver’s door. I told MacGyver that next we’ll be sharing the same shower room — NOT! — another husband/wife team habit that we don’t understand.
We set off from Reno on one of my favorite drives through Fallon, by Walker Lake, across the Amargosa Desert to Las Vegas. Unfortunately most of it was driven in the dark. MacGyver drove into a bug storm at Walker Lake, the bright lights were sizzling at the casino at Beatty and there’s always action in Vegas, traffic at three o’clock in the morning. The sun rose as I pulled into Kingman, Arizona, sunshine blasted through the windows as I drove along US93 through Joshua Tree forest to Phoenix.
You know how they say, trouble comes in multiples, we noticed a hiss from the passenger side steer (front) axle air bag after we dropped our load in Nogales, Arizona a few miles north of the Mexican border. The good news, we have spare parts. Any mechanic can fix it. It was repaired Friday morning in Tucson.
There are no official photos yet of the finished box. MacGyver has been busy. But let me say, I was right. We have a garage. It is full of stuff, all legitimate stuff, truck stuff, scooter stuff and personal stuff, but it’s full.
The good news for MacGyver, the box fits the tractor and fits the Vespa. The bad news? We are no longer just a black truck ghosting, elegantly across the plains. A driver at the Love’s in Comfort, Texas told me: “I saw you you at Eloy, Arizona (20 hours previously) at the TA, you was pulling in and I was leaving. I was wondering what the heck is in that box.”