“What’s wrong?” Tracey asked from somewhere behind me and to my left. “Why are we stopping?”
I was coasting out of the roundabout with all the enthusiasm of a death row inmate heading down the green mile.
“Something’s a little bit not right,” I said.
Naturally, she was eager to know what.
“Only the thing everyone says is the worst thing which could go wrong,” I said, trying to sound more casual than I felt. I wasn’t fooling my insides though. I’d taken my foot off the accelerator the moment I saw something going wrong but I was panicking. “The oil pressure gauge just plummeted as I came into the roundabout. I’m going to pull over….here.”
I let the bus inch forward enough the car trailer was out of traffic as well and then I shut the engine down, hoping I’d acted quick enough.
If the interweb was a video store, all the stories I’ve read about oil pressure problems in diesel trucks and buses would be in the horror section. You’ve got moments to spot a problem and stop or you end up looking at a new engine which means you kiss goodbye to $20k to $50k, or in our case your big lap dream.
“It’s probably just another gauge problem,” said Tracey in what I thought was far too blasé a tone.
But then I was well and truly taking care of the anxiety. Already the nape of my neck was so tense I was having difficulty turning my head. On the bright side we were broken down in our house so the medicine cabinet was handy.
At this moment our bus was both okay and stuffed. As we so often do, Tracey and I took up the gauntlet of opposing views. Tracey was saying Schrodinger’s cat was alive, while I was pretty sure there was an unpleasant smell coming from the box.
“What are the chances we’d go through two oil pressure gauges inside of a year?” I asked her as I popped a tablet and rubbed cream into the back of my neck. I was referencing the fact we replaced the gauge the first time we had our bus, Kenny, serviced and, on that occasion, hadn’t realised it wasn’t registering anything until well after it had given up its career.
Little Miss Optimistic, of course, had the answer to that.
“What are the odds I’d still be here?” she grinned.
I toyed with the idea of asking if she thought her surgeon would knew anything about diesel engines.
And then the waiting game began. I invoked the breakdown service we pay for with our bus insurance. A little over an hour later a tow truck arrived and the bloke said he couldn’t help. At all.
“I came around the roundabout and saw the bus and thought, ‘what am I supposed to do with that?’.”
He’d have been happy to change a flat, he assured us, but that’s sort of where his skillset ended.
“I can’t even offer you a tow,” he added, indicating his tow truck which, as if to cement the point it wouldn’t be able to handle anything bigger than a Pajero, had a smashed up Pajero on the tray.
I phoned the break down service back.
“No, they’re not mechanics,” I was told this time. “They can change a tyre though.”
I wondered if I should go into the fact I didn’t use the words flat or tyre when I rang for assistance but definitely used the words oil, pressure and gauge.
“So what can you do for us?” I asked instead.
“Well,” she said, “if you need a tow to a truck mechanic, we can help you with that. Up to $600.”
I agreed that sounded like a great plan and we should do that.
“Who would you recommend?” I asked.
“Oh, we don’t recommend anyone. You have to tell us where you want to be towed.”
At this point we had lunch and let the kids use the ’emergency’ toilet on the bus and, as we Googled and phoned around, wondered what people did in the days before iPhones and laptops.
Finally, after several dead ends and eventually a series of referrals from nice people unable to assist, we spoke to a bloke named Don.
“What are you driving?” he asked after I explained our situation. I told him all the letters and numbers I knew. “They’re a great engine,” he said. “Look, I can’t come out at the moment. Friday afternoon and the workshop is too busy. But I can talk you through a few things. From what you’ve said, I think your gauge is shot.”
So I followed his instructions and eventually turned the key, letting the engine start, and….the bloody gauge showed normal bloody pressure.
Schrodinger’s bus was alive!
“If you want to bring it in here,” said Don over my very loud sigh of relief, “I’ll hook it up to the master gauge and check it for you.”
We took him up on his offer, and twenty odd kilometres later we got to meet Don and thank him in person as he crawled under our engine bay and made sure all was in order. He even got me under there to see for myself and explained about how oil pressure gauges work. I had a fantastic time. Best of all he repeated his very excellent assertion the Hino RK engine is a good’en. I could listen to that sort of talk all day long.
“Here,” he said when ‘we’ were done, indicating the sink where he had some fancy soap to clean off the grease and oil.
“I think I’ll keep it,” I said, looking at my blackened hands and arms. “My wife loves it when I pretend to know my way around an engine. Might get lucky.”
As if there was anything left in that wishing well.
People of Cranbourne and Devon Meadows, you’ve got a champion here. Actually, the whole crew in Don’s shed were a great bunch of blokes. I can’t find a Facebook or internet presence for Don and the boys, but I did take Don’s card, so there’s a photo of that below: D & A Papas Automotive Repairs. Although his wife does have a blog – The Aussie Empty Nester. One of the great things about doing what we’re doing is the opportunity to meet good people who know how to laugh and enjoy life. Don, I genuinely hope we get a chance to meet you on the road sometime when you and the missus are trekking about.
Driving our ‘home’ around Australia is a fantastic opportunity for our family which has brought us even closer together – not just physically because we’re all sleeping in what is essentially one huge bunk bed. We’ve already experienced so much more than I ever thought we would in my lifetime. Just the other day we got to watch penguins come out of the ocean and walk with them as they went to feed their chicks.
This is an amazing adventure. We know it is. And we’re grateful for every single moment of it.
A point solidly brought home when you find yourself sitting for hours by the side of a highway and not knowing if you’re going to have to cancel Christmas or maybe even the whole working holiday.
But our bank account survived another day.
“Told you it’d be nothing,” said Tracey as we took to the highway again, several hours behind schedule but keen to complete the next leg of our journey.
Little Miss Optimistic for the win.
Now to convince her to work on the knots in my shoulders. After the stress of today I feel like a human pretzel.
Raising a family on little more than laughs
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