Those of you who check in regularly with us on the website may have noticed that the dot on the map hasn’t moved at all recently. And those who follow us on social media may have noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of activity. This is because our summer hasn’t gone as we had planned. Surprise, surprise! If there’s anything we’ve learned since living on the road, it is that things don’t go as planned.
Our plan for the summer was pretty straightforward: We were going to head to Washington to visit my family from mid-July until mid-August and then travel around Washington to check out more places before going on. Unfortunately our truck started to fall apart - all non-WVO-related problems. Our WVO system has actually been working great since the beginning of August. Our brake failure was the start of our looking for a replacement truck.
We had our truck towed to a shop after the brakes failed to get an estimate on replacing all the brake lines. At this point, we already knew we needed to replace our transmission, which is on its deathbed, and the radiator. Along with the brake and suspension work we now needed, the total cost is over $6,000. Jerud and I have gone back and forth multiple times on whether it’s worth putting that much money into our truck. It’s a 1991 truck (and very rusty), which means more things are going to break on it. The new transmission would outlast the truck. So we’re looking for a replacement. We knew the truck was going to die sooner or later – after all it’s a 24 year old truck – but we had hoped it would be several more months before it actually did. Jerud repaired our brakes enough that we can drive it around town and go look at potential replacements, but it can’t safely tow the trailer. So we’re stuck in place.
It’s been three weeks since we first started looking for a truck. Since we are going to convert the replacement to WVO, we are pretty specific about the truck we buy. We are looking for a Ford F250, 7.3-liter diesel (1999 – 2003), 4x4, crew- (or super-) cab and long bed. Our truck now is an extended cab which has been bearable getting Tybee in and out of the truck, but there are days I want to tear my hair out because a extended cab has barely enough space to squeeze a lab/rott into the backseat. If we’re going to spend the money to buy another truck then we might as well get what we really want – back seat doors so that it’s a lot easier to put Tybee into it. And a vehicle with back windows means that the dogs can stick their heads out of it like dogs are supposed to! The long bed is mandatory, not only for clearance between the trailer’s front and the truck cab, but also because we need the space in the bed for our WVO tank and tool box. Diesel is mandatory for a WVO conversion. 4x4 because we go into the woods so often and know that road conditions won’t always be good. The 7.3-liter is also a must because of its reliability (and ease of converting to WVO). We initially thought we could get away with an F350 if that’s all we could find, but then we realized that it sits two inches higher in the back than an F250. Our trailer can’t handle an additional two inches in height because then it would no longer sit flat when hitched to the truck. Because we have met the maximum axle weight on the trailer, the trailer has to sit level or else more weight would be on the rear axle, exceeding its rating and risking a suspension failure or tire blow out. The extra height in an F350 can be compensated for by lowering the fifth wheel hitch that’s in the bed of the truck. But we can’t lower our hitch enough to correct the difference.
The problems that we’ve been running into finding a truck are:
· The Ford F250 7.3-liter is a highly sought after truck. When we can actually find one, more often than not the prices are extremely high.
· It’s even harder to find a truck with all the features we want.
· Craigslist sellers don’t seem to like to return calls and emails. Yeah, that’s a good way to sell a car.
· Many of the trucks that do have all these requirements are either lifted or chipped. Neither of which we want. Unlifting a truck is expensive (> $1500) and risky. We can’t pull the trailer with a lifted truck. And seriously, an F250 is damn big enough on its own without adding any additional height to it! We don’t want a truck that’s been chipped because it degrades the reliability of the engine, which means we would have to replace parts sooner.
· The trucks that did have everything we were looking for turned out to be in pretty bad condition. One that we were really excited about based on the ad and talking to the seller of the trucks, so we took the ferry to Olympic Peninsula to check out, turned out to be a POS. The inside of the truck was mildewed and gross, there was water in the dashboard, and the coolant in the coolant reservoir was black and thick like mud – and the guy tried to act like that was fine. One of the main problems with another truck that we had to drive over an hour to go check out was that its odometer numbers were so screwy. Carfax stated that the truck mileage was 114,000 when the first owner last got it serviced. When the second buyer got a hold of the truck the mileage was 77,000. And when we went to see the truck the mileage was 113,000. Um…I’m not good at math but I do know that’s not right. And the numbers on the dashboard were not lined up – a sign that indicates the numbers were potentially rolled backwards. On top of that there were a handful of other issues.
· There are a lot more 6-liters out there, but their oil cooler and EGR cooler have a high incidence of failure. To “bulletproof” a 6-liter truck (fix the issues) costs $6,000. Bulletproofing in this case doesn’t mean you can now grab a case of beer, hit the woods with your buddies and shotguns and have at it. Check out this site for a full explanation of what it means.
So yes, looking for a truck has been depressing. We’ve exhausted Craigslist, we’ve called all the RV dealers in the area (they sometimes get used trucks in), we’ve called car dealers, contacted used car lots, looked up auction dates. A buddy of ours has been keeping an eye out for us in Jackson, WY. And we’ve looked at Craigslist in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Canada without any luck. Currently we’ve found two trucks in Denver, CO and are trying to figure out if it’ll work or not. If it will, then one of us is flying to Denver to buy it and driving it back to Washington. Turns out Seattle is the second worst city to buy a vehicle; trucks in Denver are a lot cheaper so that if we did find one there it would be worth the plane ticket. But if that doesn’t pan out…Well, then I guess we have to give up one of our requirements and I guess it would be having a crew cab. Goodbye windows for the dogs. (Major bummer.) Next on the list to go would be not having a Ford truck at all. Dodge trucks with the 5.9L 12-valve engine are also good candidates for WVO conversions.
Like with all situations, there are upsides and downsides. The upside is this all couldn’t have happened to us at a better place. Even though our RV is currently parked in the parking lot of a grocery store, at least the lot is really close to my aunt and uncle’s place and we have free parking. We’ve been hanging out at their place a lot – using their internet, eating lots of delicious Chinese food and spending time with them. It’s great to have family (that you like) nearby that you can lean on without feeling like you’re imposing on them.
The downside is that we’ve been living in a parking lot for a really long time now. We’ve been in Washington for so long that my aunt and uncle are trying to convince us to just stay here permanently. Since the truck’s transmission is about to shit the bed, we haven’t gone anywhere far in fear that we’ll get stranded. We’ve been spending the majority our time looking for a truck, and the stolen bike and trailer.
We just thought we’d let everyone know what we’ve been up to recently. Hopefully it won’t be long until we’re towing the Toaster to a new location. We’re itching to get back on the road and continue our traveling journey.