With Phannie's emergence from Bay Diesel's annual checkup and service with no issues noted on their comprehensive checklist (an option we always choose wherein the experienced mechanics look at every possible wear point and replace or lubricate as needed), we had concluded our service agenda for this visit to Red Bay. Because we have had our annual service done here for several years, Bay Diesel has a record of when required items were accomplished--whether they be annual, biennial or triennial, so I really don't have to keep up with it too closely (although I keep a complete file of everything done to Phannie in case there's a question).
|Phannie, all finished at Bay Diesel with a good report.|
The next day, we headed out for Searcy, Arkansas and an overnight stop to visit friends Larry and Carolyn, whom we recently met in Branson. Having bumped our way through Memphis (they really need to do something about their deteriorating roadways), we turned onto highway 64, a very busy two-lane road with lots of construction and non-stop eighteen-wheelers going both directions.
A cold front was approaching the area, preceded by thunderstorms and a tornado watch, and we were hoping to get to Searcy before having to contend with that. As often happens ahead of a strong cold front, a very gusty south wind was blowing where we were on highway 64, blasting against Phannie's huge left side and causing her to lurch to the right with each heavy gust. To make driving even more difficult, the big trucks heading toward us in the opposite direction amplified the wind gusts with their passing a few feet away on the two-lane road. At a closing speed of perhaps more than 120 mph, each truck we met was like a concussion blast of sorts.
It was during one of the heaviest wind gusts that a speeding 18-wheeler met us with the heaviest concussion we had felt. At the same time, we heard a loud snap followed by a fluttering sound on Phannie's left side. I found a place to pull off the road and walked around to the driver's side, where it was obvious that the forward slide topper roller was loose, causing the new slide topper material to loosen around the roller, which was the source of the flapping noise.
Since we had just had the slide toppers replaced at MS RV Solutions in Red Bay, I leaped to the conclusion that their installation had somehow been faulty. With this in mind, I turned Phannie around and headed back to Red Bay, giving Carl, one of the owners of MS RV Solutions, a call to tell him what had happened. This was on a Friday afternoon, and he asked me to come directly to the shop, and he would take a look at it. I told him it would be around six o'clock, and he said it didn't matter what time I got there; he and his partner, Daniel, would meet us.
Since we were now traveling the opposite direction back toward Memphis, the south wind was now on our right side, and there were no trucks on that shoulder side of the road, so the loose topper seemed stable enough to continue back to Red Bay, and off we went. Sure enough, Carl and Daniel were standing in the shop's driveway, looking down the road, awaiting Phannie's appearance. They motioned us directly into one of the bays and began to survey the topper.
|MS RV Solutions in Golden, Mississippi|
|New roller support and brake that replaced the one that failed in wind gust|
After this discovery, the guys immediately began to repair the topper support bracket. They didn't have a new brake mechanism in stock but, after a short absence by Daniel, he appeared back at the shop with one in hand, shaking his head as to how hard it was to locate one at this hour. I didn't ask where he got it; I didn't want to know.
After about an hour, all was good as new, and I pulled out my wallet to pay for the work. Carl shook his head and waved away my gesture, saying that there would be no charge, even though the failure of the topper support was clearly not due to any error on his part. When I began to insist, he said,
"I can't accept your money because we touched this topper just before this happened to you. I'm sure we had nothing to do with the bracket failure, as we handled only the topper material; but I cannot afford for our reputation to be even slightly questioned."
I don't think I've ever been more impressed.
Unfortunately, our bad luck was not quite over. As we were preparing for departure from Red Bay the next day, I hooked up Mae behind Phannie and tested the operation of the car's brake and turn signals. The left signal was not working! Thinking the problem may be the power cord that runs between the coach and the car, I switched to a new one that I keep on hand. Same problem! I knew the bulbs were okay, as they are LEDs, two bulbs on each side, and they worked okay when illuminated with the taillights.
Well, this would not do, as it would not only be illegal to drive this way, but I always want my signals evident to anyone following our little wagon train. Not knowing what to do, I drove Phannie out to Bay Diesel, followed by Sandy in Mae, and talked to Chris, the owner to get some ideas. Now bear in mind that Bay Diesel is a very busy shop that doesn't usually perform work on automobiles and never without an appointment. I suppose Chris could sense my exasperation, so he said, "Why don't you hang around, Mike, and I'll see if we can work you in." I thanked him profusely, of course, and Sandy and I went to the customer lounge.
After a wait of a couple of hours, a mechanic began working on Mae, dismantling the taillight fixture and inspecting the wiring all the way to the front of the car. Finding no problems with the fixture or wiring, he took apart the receptacle into which the power cord is plugged when towing. As soon as he removed it, a splash of rust-colored water poured out on the ground. The receptacle housing had filled with water that had blown back from Phannie when we had driven on a rainy highway. Well, I knew that water and electricity don't mix, and it was clear that one of the contacts had shorted out. The receptacle anterior and the wires it contained were wet, rusted and corroded, so it had to be replaced and, to my astonishment, Chris had one in stock! He added silicone sealer to ensure it would stay dry in the future.
|New receptacle is ready to go!|
Perhaps this gives you an illustration of why we find ourselves returning year after year to the backwater little town of Red Bay to get service for Phannie. It is a place that time has forgotten--where its citizens all seem somehow to have kept intact the values of honesty, integrity, fairness, helpfulness and hard work that were exemplified to us by our parents back in the fifties when we were growing up. I've never seen anything like it.
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life;
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.
You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.