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Travelogue: Jack and Aaron's Bonkers CA to TN Truck Fetch

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237
211
Exp. Type
W2W Racing
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
Columbia, TN
This all started during Uncle Scott’s 2022 summer visit to my neck of the woods in middle Tennessee. We were shooting the breeze, I was telling him how cool it would be to find a truck with a manual transmission for my 16-year-old son Jack, ideally a good one – his first truck could be his “forever truck.” A few months later Uncle Scott called me about his ’87 F-250 as a possible truck for Jack. This truck is a white extra cab with the split rear window trim, long bed, 4x4 with a Dana 60 front axel, and 6.9L Diesel. I rode all around California in this truck as a kid with my Uncle Scott, Aunt and Cousins. We went to the lake for ski trips, there are all sorts of great memories… You know… Like going up the infamous I-5 grapevine, in southern California, towing the boat at about 40-45mph, that’s all the 6.9l gutless wonder could muster up. Only bummer is it has an automatic and I really want my sons to start out in a manual truck, because it’s the right thing to do, and nowadays rare. Uncle Scott tells me he has a ZF-5 speed manual transmission ready for it, he’s always wanted to convert this truck. Whoa, now I’m all in, like a moth to a flame! All we need to do is… fly back to California, he will help us swap the transmissions, you know… “real quick,” in his super shop. My thought, just the weekend… now Uncle Scott, he wasn’t so optimistic, but as it goes, we got this…. right? Alright, so the ZF5 manual transmission wasn’t the only cherry on top! There are two cherries! Uncle Scott tells me he’s including a 7.3L IDI non-turbo as a donor engine for a full rebuild to replace the 6.9L that has 440,000 miles on it, a rebuild where turbo dreams will most certainly become reality! Super biznitch’n!

So I start hatching plans to get this done and surprise my victim … or maybe I was the victim…? Jack had been expressing that he really wanted to go back to the Old Ranch (as we call it) in Northern California and visit my uncle and Aunt and my grandmother. Eureka! My wife and I, along with my Uncle Scott and Aunt Marie crafted our surprise. The plan… to take him there for his birthday but a month early, so we’re talking April 2023, to avoid the busy Cherry-Picking season in their Orchard, so we scheme and plan on telling Jack once we’re at the ranch, “there’s work to be done while visiting. No operating ranch can afford idle hands.” So, on a Friday morning in early April it all started… “Jack, wake up! Pack your bags for 5 days”. No warning, no further explanation, just a “do you trust me? Ok then, pack your bags”. He was so confused. After a shortened day at the office, I head home, my wife then drives us to the airport and drops us off at the curb. He is so confused at this point, but starts piecing things together when he reads the obvious destination of our plane flight… Sacramento CA. After a nice evening flight where a random guy falls asleep and unknowingly snuggles up right on Jack’s shoulder, Haha! We land late and it takes forever to catch an Uber to the hotel, all the while I’m being peppered with questions of “why are we here, are we visiting customers on business, family, when do we go home, why don’t we have a rental car…?” Good night, Jack, you will find out tomorrow.

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The following morning, Saturday, Uncle Scott and Aunt Marie showed up. Jack is surprised to see them, but even more perplexed now. We unleash our fully diabolical story on Jack, “You wanted to visit and we’re so happy you’re here, but there’s a fence line that needs to set here on the ranch.” Jack knows that job all too well with our 6 years of owning property out in Iowa. By this point you can tell he is thinking like, “dang, I get to visit which is great… but this is going to be a lot of work!” He’s a trooper though, and we just keep talking up the fence project, the ridge line we need to run it up and over… Two full hours of scheming on the two-hour drive to the Old Ranch. Upon arrival, we drove right up to the shop, the super shop. Uncle Scott rolls up the big door and there’s the truck with a semi beat up livestock gate right next to it, so we say… “there’s the fence project.” He unwittingly looks at the gate and goes, “where’s the fence and fence posts?” - we told him we had to pull and set like 4,000 feet of fence line! Dang this is good, we baited him, and he fell for it solid! I kind of felt bad, no actually… not really. Ha! Then we say, “No Jack, no that, this is the “fence project,” and point to the truck!”” Jack, Uncle Scott is giving you this truck as your first vehicle. Your Uncle drove me around in this my entire childhood, your Great Grandpa drove this truck for a few years, now it’s all yours! But… the automatic transmission pooped out, so we need to swap it quick. “Oh, and did I tell you? We don’t have a return flight back home to Tennessee… We are driving!” So, at this point the truck would start and drive in first and second, but third was gone-ish and the aftermarket overdrive didn’t. Jack gets into the driver’s seat, and he fires it up. We drive it around the ranch a bit and what a smile he has on his face! As a Dad, this was the greatest thing to see and to know we are about to embark on an epic father/son/uncle project.
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We pull it back into the shop and dive right in on this deal. Making all the mistakes we know better on, like… let’s not unhook that because we don’t want to take apart more then we need to… and then after fighting things for way longer than we should, end up having to pull it (think steering column for starters). This only happened like 15 times over. We… I … plan on this taking the weekend, remember? Being back on the road Monday, heading home to Tennessee. It’s now late Saturday afternoon and the clutch/flywheel combo I ordered in advance was backordered… great! Napa auto parts to the rescue. I did get the single mass flywheel I wanted, but not without getting the wrong bolt pattern the first time. Holy smokes, this was an involved deal! A lot of prep happened on Saturday evening and still not enough; driver seat out, steering column out, carpet pulled back to access the super sweet transmission access cover. The following day Jack gets to work cleaning up the ZF5 and many other parts that are diesel truck dirty (if you own an old diesel, you know what I mean). I am back to Napa auto parts, mind you this down the hill to Oroville so it’s like 45min one way.

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Now my Grandmother’s house is just up the hill from the super shop, and she likes being around to watch, and sitting by the stove to keep warm. It’s the first of April, so still cool, and Grandma decides to bring us some of her cookies, which I was happy about because she is a good cook… wellllllllll this time, she is especially into her health and nutrition. So, these cookies -Uncle Scott now so affectionately calls them “death cookies,” are made with all sorts of “good and healthy” ingredients. The kind of ingredients that you are fare warned to have water close by, maybe just have a full glass in your hand. Buy hey, they are probably just exaggerating, and let me tell you, after two days I am ready for a nice little treat, to heck with the warnings, sure Grams, I’ll have a cookie! So, you’ve heard of the spoon full of cinnamon challenge, right? Well imagine it sort of like that… I start chewing and like a rush… this dang death cookie instantaneously starts drawing all the moisture out of my head in a matter of seconds. I start choking, coughing, hacking… Where is the water I was warned to have nearby?! What in the world Grandma!?! She winks and says, “they’re good for you, they’ll keep you regular.” … thanks grandma… she eventually made her way back to her place and we pitched those death cookies right into the stove as more fuel. Whoa, what kind of health nut sort of things is she concocting up in her cabin all day? You better believe I’m taking Uncle Scott more seriously next time. Death cookies didn’t take me out or her… But maybe a peach cobbler or pie next time, Ey Grams? You know on second thought, NO… “It’ll keep you regular,” replaying over in my head. Lord only knows what uncle Scott would affectionately name Grandma’s “healthy” cobbler. Ha! Hey, you’ve been warned…

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Alrighty, so onto Monday evening, the flywheel, clutch and transmission have successfully been installed. During our thrashing, my cousin Jennah showed up for an afternoon and turned wrenches with us. That was so nice to see her and her sweet kids! We thought, hey, we only need a little more time tomorrow and we’re on the road! Triple pedal assembly is installed along with the steering column. Tomorrow will be seats, trim etc. and we might be ready to drive out by Tuesday afternoon… But, as it goes, things take longer than expected, but we did do a little test drive on Tuesday afternoon. We were all geared up to hit the road by Wednesday morning. Wednesday comes, it’s all assembled, we are ready to hit the road… However, we can’t get the clutch fully bled, or so we thought, but never mind that, we’re still driving out Wednesday morning. Truck is loaded with our suitcases, spare engine, and all sorts of other parts… and another bag of death cookies… thanks Grandma.

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During our stay, they put us up in the little “potting shed,” as my Uncle and Aunt call it, we had it all to ourselves. Think tiny house but done right. None of that nonsense you see on TV that you can order and have delivered to your property, it is built solid, with the coolest spiral staircase and warm stove. One of those unique destination getaways that people dream of staying in. On top of that, Aunt Marie is an excellent cook! She kept us fed with breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Honestly the most delicious meals, served with love! Our hands may have been cold, bloody, and aching, but thanks to sweet aunt Marie we had warm beds and full bellies! My cousin Jennah came to visit with her sweet kids. Just a wonderful time with family! Gosh, it was amazing to thrash on this truck with my Uncle and my son. Never going to forget this… or the 2,369 miles to come.
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Wednesday morning, we leave! It was around 7am and we notice right away, our toes are really really cold, and we could see our breath...fantastic. It’s in the low 40’s and well, the heater definitely isn’t. Hmmm, okay, good start! Our route will take us over Donner Pass, across Northern Nevada, Utah, the Rockies, and the plains. All things considered, it’s still quite cold at night in early April… yeah, we need heat and the ability to defrost the windshield. Ok, enough, we need heat! At the very first fuel stop I hop out of the truck and see the front fender F-250 emblem hanging there sideways. Hmm, ok. I pluck that off and toss it in the cab. By now it’s 10am, second stop at Napa Auto Parts in Grass Valley to buy a new heater core. We swap that and no heat, what the heck? Silver lining my other cousin Ashley is close by, she shows up and says hi and give her a big hug, what a super cool reunion! So, there we are, Jack is tearing into the dash, I’m starting to get frustrated and a little worried about this clutch that won’t fully disengage. So, we swing around to a transmission shop and ask them, third stop and mind you it’s not even noon, but I figure, hey, get the kinks out and we will be on our way. So the shop tells us the stud on the lever arm coming off the clutch pedal shaft are notorious for wearing and needing to be replaced with a hiem joint or at the very least a new plastic bushing. I get my head under that dash, and I don’t see a plastic bushing, so back to Napa, fourth stop -by now it’s 1:00p.m. and we’re only about 80 miles in… but now we’ve got it fixed… kinda. Still not perfect but better-ish.

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Over Donner Pass we go and wouldn’t you know it, my Uncle drives for Walmart, and on that particular week they have him on a route he hadn’t been on in 3 years, and actually, he hasn’t been on it since then. Hmmm, the Lord is really looking out for us, wonder if The Almighty knew something we didn’t? Jack and I pass uncle Scott, we decide to stop at the last In-N-Out Burger we know of in Reno, yum! Fifth stop, but who’s counting...? While we’re there I think, maybe the clutch needs to be bled again... after all, we’re in much higher elevation now so those bubbles are bigger. We get to bleeding it, some air comes out, but it’s now worse. Dang! We’re burning daylight. So, I stop messing with it, hope for the best and we’re off again, trying not to grind gears on the way to 5th –where I plan to keep it on cruise for hours. It’s during this time that Jack has dug way into the dash while we’re driving, problem solves, and finally gets our heat blowing, excellent! We catch up to my Uncle, turns out, we both need fuel in Winnemucca, sixth stop, but I’m sure it’ll be smooth sailing from this point on. Uncle Scott gets back on the road and shortly after Jack and I are too. Sun is going down by this time, in the high desert those sunsets are incredible, seems to go on forever. Taking in the beauty and cruising, so nice! “SREEEECH... Aah, what was that?” We keep rolling along going about 70mph according to what GPS said... Oh, I forgot to mention in all our thrashing, the speedo doesn’t work anymore, or the odometer, the fuel gauges are iffy at best. Ha, yeah, I forgot all about that part. We’re going to drive across the country with no speedo, ok sure, not a huge issue, or odometer… hmmm, well how far have we gone and how much fuel are we burning? The wonderful technology of Google Maps to the rescue. It did work, but it’s generally not recommended. “SCREECH!” ...ok dang that was much louder and longer. I call Uncle Scott, who is ahead of us by a few miles, he says he’s going to stop in Wells, NV for the evening and tells us to stop in so he can take a look at it with us. It happens again, but this time Jack and I feel the truck lurch a bit, so I ease off the throttle a bit and all seems ok, but it does it a few more times and now I know we’ve got a problem. As we come over the top of a small hill that has us rolling down into Wells I ease out of the throttle and notice it seems to be coasting a bit too smooth and now I’m hearing a weird metal whirling sound. Stab the throttle and nothing. I downshift into 4th and ease out the clutch… nothing. Oh no! We’ve lost our drive... We coast down an off ramp and there is nothing. I call Uncle Scott and he says try 4 wheel high or 4 wheel low… welp 4 wheel low to the rescue! So we crawl over to his hotel going a whopping 10mph or so in 3rd gear. We all determine the transfer case is shot. Thankfully we’re in the parking lot of a brand new Hampton Inn, sweet, nice rooms and a hot shower. Guess what…? for some unknown reason in Wells, NV they are BOOKED SOLID, not even a room for this dedicated Hilton Member. So we limp on over to… Motel 6. I’m just hoping the door locks, the beds are clean, the toilet doesn’t have skid marks, and no bugs. It was pleasantly clean! Still, I’ve stayed in hotels all over the world, but Motel 6 leaves you with the feeling that while you slept alone, you were actually cuddled all night long. Oh how I want to shower again just thinking about it. So, we’re now at the end of day one with seven stops in and a major repair ahead of us. Jack is really freaking out at this point, but I reminded him, we have lots of friends within only a few hundred miles from us and plus, I had a solid lead on a possible transfer case. I tell Jack, we can’t do a thing about it now, it’s 11pm, let’s get a good night sleep.
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The next morning (Thursday) we wake, shower and walk over to a diner for breakfast… I stopped at the front desk to let the nice lady know that I may be staying another night, but… praying for a miracle, we may be out this afternoon. She told me not to worry about a thing, she understands and would work with us. What a blessing! Alrighty, so back to problem solving and getting us out of Wells. It’s early, cold, and blowing wind at a high of 28 degrees. There are friggin icicles hanging off the roof line, what the heck man! Good food, good coffee and the lead that I mentioned, well the night before, Uncle Scott was asking all the truckers at that truck stop and one of the tow truck drivers said to check car-part.com as it’s a parts yard look up. Bingo! We find a place up in Twin Falls, ID that has the exact Borg Warner 1356 transfer case we need. Before this I had I called and messaged friends in all sort of places “in the industry” and family members who are gearheads, lots of strike outs. The guy says he can ship it but it will be like $300 and we’ll get it by tomorrow. I say “Dude, it’s a 2hr drive from you to me, you gotta have a bother, cousin, friend with a Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, or something who want’s $300 to drive this thing down to me”. He thinks for a second, after I explained I have no way of getting to him and says he’ll call me back in a few. Ok, while he does that, I decide I’m done with the slave cylinder on this stupid truck and ask the super nice Motel 6 maintenance guy if I could hitch a ride over to the parts store in town. I quickly grabbed that, and some tools, then we’re back to Motel 6. The guy from the parts yard calls me and says, “Frank is on the way, he is our regular driver and he’s coming through Wells, NV on his regular route anyways, but I still have to pay $300.” Uh ok, whatever just bring those transfer cases (he said he’d send two just in case). I got under the truck in the Motel 6 parking lot, wind is blowing, it’s sunny, but it’s only 33degrees now. In the shade under the truck, it’s grit your teeth time. Motel 6 doesn’t disappoint either... One of the guys staying there with his dog walks past us a few times and asks me what we’re doing. I explain and suddenly he goes on the most odd-ball encouraging rant ever! He was saying how cool this is was to see a Father-Son trip and that I have the coolest f@#ing Uncle ever, he continues with a God bless you and that’s so f@#ing amazing and God bless you and bleeping, bleeping, but God BLESS…! Well kids, this is why you don’t do drugs. He said he was staying there until he closes on the property he’s bought in Montana where “he’s gonna mine gold.” Long pause… Uuh, yeah ok buddy, good luck with that.



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I’m back under the truck, get the transfer case out and Frank pulls up, man what timing! Yup, the Lord is always looking out for us! Great guy and they seriously brought 2 transfer cases so I could have my pick! Wow! Grab the one I want and we’re under the truck bolting everything together when guess who shows up…? Uncle Scott! He’s already been to Salt Lake City and is on the way back through. Man, what a way to be blessed and warmed in my heart. It lifts Jack’s spirit too! We fill up the new to us and freshly bolted in transfer case with fluid, I drive the truck around a bit -still with the clutch that won’t fully disengage, but we’re back in business! Alright, so while all this was happening, I kept seeing this one woman wandering around. She was at the counter the night before with change in her hand trying to figure out how to get a room, but she is so strung out on drugs. I have no clue where she stayed overnight. You can hear and see her mumbling to herself and wandering around the hotels around this truck stop, she is filthy dirty. How can you be homeless way out here in nowhere? Gosh my heart just hurts for her world of cluelessness as if at the bottom of a vast ocean of horrible decisions. All I know to do is pray for that lady. So sad to see the state of our fellow citizens all screwed up on drugs and clearly taken advantage of. I saw there are a few local churches, hopefully she sobers up and makes her way there because there was no talking to her in whatever condition she was mumbling around in. Staying there that night reminded me that there are still good people in this world, willing to help, and people who desperately need help. Some we can help, others we pray for their souls. I still think about those people at Motel 6 in Wells. Maybe God uses moments like that to remind us of our need for Him? We started rolling again at 3:30p.m. on Thursday afternoon, little did we know the challenges we would still face. We said farewell to Uncle Scott for sure this time and we got rolling down the road, saying a prayer as we pulled out of town for that guy with the dog and his gold mine property and the poor strung out woman. I thanked the Lord for the others who helped us.

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Ah, Winnemucca, NV, this is where we were supposed to stay before the transfer case fiasco. I’ve driven past Bonneville Salt Flats a number of times, but we need to stop and check them out. Water was everywhere, but it was cool to see and now this trip is getting to the fun part again. Back on the road and we’re trying to get to Grand Junction, CO … that’s a haul! Cruise through Salt Lake City as night falls. My wife Ashley calls ahead to hotels along our route and we can’t get a room booked any closer than the big haul to Grand Junction. I know we have enough fuel, all is well, Ashley is on the phone with me, it’s like 1am and I can see the hotel. I let off the throttle for the off ramp and the engine dies. I thought I must not have switched tanks, but I’m almost certain I did. Whatever, I know how to bleed this thing, even though it is my first time I’m still feeling confident in my haze of exhaustion. We’re half way up the off ramp, because I thought maybe I’ll need the gravity just maybe. Jack and I fail to restart it and we actually burnt up the starter, but didn’t know it at the time and I thought we killed the batteries. Using that bit of gravity from the off ramp we roll down with enough momentum for me to muscle the steering and slowly coast into the parking lot and it comes to a stop in a parking spot halfway in and sideways, but thankfully to the back of the lot. Jack, again says “Dad, what are we going to do?” and I tell him “Not worrying about it tonight Jack, nothing we can do but grab your bags, we’re going to bed, we can figure this out in the morning.”

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The next morning (Friday, good Friday to be exact) it’s up to Jack and I. Uncle Scott is back home in Northern California and I gotta get back to work! I’m very aware at this point, the Rockies that I’ve driven over a number of times are easy in a normal running vehicle, but this is the venerable Ford International 6.9l naturally aspirated gutless wonder diesel, and we’re about to get into some thin air. I’ve honestly been most concerned about this very part of the drive the whole time but thought we can take it slow and easy like the big rigs do. First, we need to get the truck running again so I call a few tow trucks for a jump and they all tell me I’ll need big rig equipment from the Loves or Flying J roadside service trucks. So I make the call and Loves comes through for the rescue and their service guy Jimmy shows up with a huge battery on wheels. We hook it up and collectively we all hold the button… it has a dead man switch and doesn’t charge unless you hold the button, the finicky button, grrrrr … After an hour and multiple tries to start the truck we realize the starter is trying to engage but it’s not turning, there’s no umph in the starter motor to even turn the engine over. By this time I’m getting really concerned and think, did we lock it up somehow? I remembered, we did give it a bit too much ether last night when trying to start the out-of-fuel-hot-engine. Maybe the starter is dead, gotta find a new one. I get under the truck and pry on the exposed flywheel and we have pretty easy crankshaft movement, ok few. I tell Jack to hit the starter while I’m under there and now I’m fully confident we need a starter. I start calling all local auto parts stores and find a few with the starter and who delivers…? No one. Jimmy is still there and he says to set it up for pick up and he will go get it for us! He got approval from his boss and left to grab it and I dove under the truck. By the time I got the starter out he had returned with the new one, smaller, higher torque and faster spinning starter, perfect timing! I get that installed and turn the key, to our sweet delight she fires up! Eureka! Let it run for a bit to warm up, then shut it down so we can check out of the hotel and get our bags. Back down with our bags, all checked out, I go to start it and now a new little issue, the key turns, the ignition turns on, but the starter will not engage, and the key has a no spring push back when you turn it forward to start. What now!?! Ok thank you Ford for putting the starter solenoid on the inside of the fender. I show Jack what poles to cross with the screwdriver, we fire up the truck, he slams the hood and we’re on the road to a Napa to get a new starter/ignition relay that mounts to the steering column. Another hour later, thankfully we knew that night we were staying with our wonderful friends, Jeff and Emily, in their beautiful home on the other side of the Rockies, so no 16hr trip in front of us. We get the relay replaced and no dice, it’s definitely the notorious ignition barrel geared arm thing that always breaks. Instead of the cheap pot metal, if someone made those out of billet steel, I’m a buyer!
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Back on the road and we are starting to drive up into the Rockies and there is a good bit of traffic, but the Western slope out of Grand Junction has some pretty tight curves so we’re ok. As you get further in, the road straightens out and speeds pickup… for everyone else that is. We stop for fuel, still with a clutch that doesn’t fully disengage, but everyone has a first day, so I ask Jack if he wants to try his hand at this challenge and drive, and he does. Grinding gears a few times, crap I hope this ZF5 is as strong as everyone says, but we’re on the road rolling along. Just beautiful country! I’m coaching Jack a bit, he’s hardly ever driven a stick, ha! and he’s doing pretty good! From my passenger seat vantage, I have a clear view of the exhaust pipe and boy is she blowing black smoke, all good. But wait, Ooop, what was that I saw, blue smoke? Nope it’s black… Wait that’s blue, then black, hmmmm … I keep my eye on it and see it move back and forth between black and blue and it’s concerning, but there is no difference in sound or feel from this turd. As we continue to climb our speed continues to drop, there’s just nothing in this old beast … toothless beast. We’re coming through Vail Pass summit at 10,630 ft elevation and now it’s mostly blue smoke and then I see billowing grey/white smoke. I’m just about panicking at this point, thinking this engine gave up the ghost, we just tried too much with an engine that has 440,000 miles, crap we’re done. I have Jack pull off at a gas station to fill up again, better safe than sorry and the clutch at this high elevation if it had a bubble in it that bubble is huge now, the clutch wont disengage and Jack learns a lot in a short time. He kills the truck at the offramp, we switch seats, he jumps the truck, quickly slams the hood and jumps back in as the truck is basically slow rolling. We get to the fuel station and fill up, I call Uncle Scott and tell him everything, I was so worried. Wouldn’t you know it? That old life long career truck driver laughs and says everything thing is just fine, just ease it down in elevation so it can breathe. He said he’s made this same trip multiple times in this truck, and it wasn’t happy every single time. We talked a bit more and then hung up. Ok, a nice dose of reassurance … Few! Uh, is the truck rolling away from the fuel pump?! Why yes, yes, it is! Adrenaline kicked in and I throw my leg in there, grab the brake, it stops just just before it yanks the fuel hose off the pump! Man alive! Jack’s just sitting in the passenger seat hanging out. I asked him, “Jack, what did you do?!” He said, “Uuh, I didn’t notice it moving.” Man, I laughed so hard! I told him, “Maybe you should hold your phone up when you’re looking at it so your peripheral vision could aid us?” Turns out, the parking brake needs to be set juuuuust right, or it pops… how nice. On the road again and we’re going a whopping 38mph at the top of Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,158 ft, we our speed because of trusty Google Maps GPS, no speedo remember? Maybe I could have gone a bit faster, but I was just being overly cautious at this point, far right lane pass me on the left if you need to. Alright, downhill we go with a smooth cruise into Denver. Only stalled it twice on the way to our friends because that stupid clutch. We headed to In-N-Out burger in their vehicle, and now this is the very last In-N-Out before home. I love In-N-Out burger, and this was such a nice treat, err maybe comfort food for this Dad who was questioning everything at this point and knowing we’re way past the point of no return. I’ve been doing my very best to be a light to Jack and show him it just isn’t worth it to cuss and throw tools, or be mean to people. This whole time the Lord has been watching over us and most folks, the vast majority of folks, are genuinely nice and willing to help. Time and time again we were blessed and here we are with our wonderful friends who we miss, but gosh what a refreshing reprieve for my nerves. Seeing our friends and being in the comfort of their Colorado home was such a blessing! I slept like a rock that night.
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Saturday morning, up at 5:00a.m., by this time, it’s been more than a full week since we jumped on that flight out of Nashville, but all the days ran together in my mind. I was having trouble picking up what day was what, but after a nice restful night, a great breakfast from our amazing friends, we were on the road at 6 a.m. Jack fell right back to sleep in the passenger seat, I had a very peaceful smile and was just cruising at about 70 – 75mph with an amazing sunrise before me! East of Denver is a lot of nothing, Kansas is a lot of nothing and this is my first time going through Kansas. It’s like Nebraska that I’ve been through plenty of times, lots of farm land. So, remember that bag of new batch death cookies? Well the new batch recipe that Grandma sent with us had been “adjusted,” so in boredom and middle of nowhere Kansas farmland I ask Jack, “Hey where are those cookies?” Concerned, he asks, “Dad, you’re driving, are you sure this is a good idea?” I tell him, aah, no problems, just keep a water bottle ready. Ok, this time I try a small bite, hmmm, ok, how about another… friggin’ death cookies went out the window at mach 5, reaching for the water to save me, Ugh! Bad Choice.

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We are smooth sailing, so I ask Jack if he wants to drive again, there’s hardly any traffic to speak of. Another fuel stop, then Jack takes the captain’s seat. He’s been cruising just fine for almost an hour, we’re slowly passing a big rig, rare occasion, I’m on the phone with my parents, it’s about 2pm and our truck starts vibrating and then violently shaking! HOLY MOLY what NOW?! Jack yanks it to the right shoulder, I’m thinking the big rig has no way of avoiding us but thank God… thank GOD almighty the trucker is able to avoid us! We stop, Jack and I are looking at each other on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Kansas wondering what was that? We know this truck pretty well by now, he’s thinking drive train and I’m thinking tires/suspension. After looking at it for bit Jack notices the passenger front tire is faintly smoking and then we see a huge bulge! Dang. This was that point when I didn’t keep my cool. Had to do some Dad repair and apologize later for my anger. Chill out, get back into the groove, anger isn’t going to solve a thing. There is a tire shop who says they will stay open for us, we’re 30min away, GPS says 20min, but we can only drive at about 40mph or the vibration goes from annoying to violent. Never driven the minimum speed limit before … checked that box!

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Kansas-land Tire in Salina, KS to the rescue! They have the tires we need and stay open 30min late just for us, even on Easter weekend! We got two new front tires on our “can’t stop us now” rig and we’re off again. You might be wondering why only 2 new fronts. Maybe you’re thinking smart move with a Dana 60, you don’t want different rotating speeds, etc. etc. Well, the truth is our truck has fairly new rear tires, actually almost brand new. Uncle Scott warned me the front tires were pretty old and it might be a good idea to get them replaced. I said “Nah, they look good and we only need to get another 2k miles out of them, I’ll take care of it back home”. Ever had your own confident statement ringing in your ears, and then repeated back to you by your young passenger?
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We motor on and the truck is running just fine, we didn’t burn it up over the Rockies, and the clutch is what it is, but you better be sure I’m gonna fix it when we get home, but out there on the road we figured out how to deal with it. We roll through Kansas City, nope… that was Topeka. Now we roll through Kansas City and I’m trying NOT to do the drive time math in my head to St. Louis, because I know St. Louis is spot on 6hrs from home. We stop for fuel about 30min West of St. Louis and Jack gets a RedBull. I hate those things and for his skinny little body, not good. I tell you what, he was the best late night passenger! We talked so much and I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. Last fuel stop Paducah Kentucky, and we’re pushing for home! Jack is still awake with me… oop, nope, he’s out. 2hrs to home and it’s 1am local time now. Ashley calls me and we talk the rest of the way. Now I’m back on home turf, only 25min from home. It’s just past 3am and wouldn’t you know it? The truck dies! What in the world!? I switch the tanks and I’m pro at this point. Jack is asleep, I pop the hood, it’s in neutral and I have the parking brake set, pretty sure I figured out the parking brake. I cross the starter solenoid, while bleeding the fuel line, she fires up, I close the hood and Jack is looking straight at me saying, “What do I need to do?” At this point, he was completely groggy and in an exhausted state, we both are. Poor guy is just so used to it by that point, he was ready for whatever the next problem was. I tell him no worries, all is well, we’re almost home. He sees familiar scenery and I can instantly see his disposition ease. We get home on Sunday morning at 3:34am… Easter Sunday. After all the Lord did to protect us and keep us, you better believe we were at Church that Sunday morning. Boy, I sure did take a nice nap that afternoon. We told everyone the radical, almost unbelievable stories of our journey across the nation.

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My wife Ashley shared with me that Jack had called her very upset when the starter went out in Grand Junction Colorado. He told her he had called around asking about tow trucks and big rig haulers, he was set on throwing in the towel and towing that truck all the way back home. He said, “Mom, at what point do we just give up and lay down our tools?” Ashley said, “Jack, that’s not what we do. We are Hunter’s, we never lay them down, we keep going, and trust the Lord!” Jack didn’t understand it then, but he has a better understanding now. That Journey was epic, bonkers, and hard, but it taught Jack and I that God goes before us, he knows the journey.
 
237
211
Exp. Type
W2W Racing
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
Columbia, TN
It was a crazy trip, but an amazing bonding experience with my son. Something we've already relied on to pull through a recent tough moment. Never ever did I think this trip would have this much trouble, maybe an issue, but not like this. But hey, when you're out on the open road, you gotta get it done!
 
86
136
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
Under 3 Years
West
You are a good man, Mr. Hunter. No doubt your son will be, too.

Rock on!
 
237
211
Exp. Type
W2W Racing
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
Columbia, TN
Thank you! It was a super trip for sure! Jack has pulled the engine so the rebuilt turbo'd 7.3l IDI can go in. We are rebuilding that transfer case that died, found out because it didn't have any fluid in it (embarrassing). He loves the truck though and it's been amazing working on it with him!

Uncle Scott has stalled out on rebuilding his '69 fastback. Goals are to bring it to TN to finish the rebuild, making it a corner carver and thrash it on the tracks we have around us. Might get a Clevor power plant too!

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