All’s Well That Ends Well (July 19-21, 2021)

On Monday, July 19, we began what we believed would be a 228-mile drive from Manistique, MI to Baileys Harbor, WI (in Door County).  Phil had booked a service appointment at Chrysler World in Abrams, WI to get the DEF counter reset.  It was 144 miles to Abrams so, by the time we arrived, the RAM was showing only nine more miles until we would be limited to 5 mph.  Since the reset we had had done in Escanaba, MI had only taken about 20 minutes, we were hoping that we would be in and out quickly.  We had planned to drop the fifth wheel at a Phillips 66 station near the dealer.  Phil had used Google Earth to verify that there was a large lot where we would be able to park.  However, when we arrived, we discovered the service station was out of business.  Regardless, we pulled in and unhitched the trailer in the vacant lot.  Jan sat in her car by the rig while Phil took the truck to the dealer.  It was good that she stayed because a man from a business on the property came to ask her what was up with the trailer.  It was clear that he didn’t want us there long-term.

The expected 20-minute service appointment turned into a 4-hour emotional rollercoaster and ended on a really bad note.  Over the course of the afternoon, Phil learned that the reset that had been done in Escanaba was possible because of an available software update.  However, the update couldn’t be done again and the mechanics in Abrams couldn’t find any way to reset the counter.  At one point, they had gotten the DEF pump to work again and it looked like they might be able to get us back on the road.  Unfortunately, the pump stopped working as soon as they took it out for a test drive.  Brad, the service manager, spent much of the afternoon trying to find another DEF pump, either from another dealer or a used part supplier, but with no success.  With no short-term solution to our problem, Brad called numerous people to see if they could tow our fifth-wheel to our reserved campsite in Baileys Harbor, but the earliest available tow would have been a couple of days later.  After exploring options of where to park the fifth-wheel, the dealer got permission from the Wisconsin DOT for us to park it in the Park and Ride lot next to the dealership.  By this point, the RAM was down to one mile until we would be limited to 5 mph.  That was just enough for us to get the rig moved and the truck returned to the dealer.

When we got in the fifth wheel, it was too hot to consider spending the night.  With no electrical hook-up, we would not have been able to run the air conditioners.  With our batteries nearly six-years old, Phil was hesitant to extend our bedroom slide since we might not have enough juice left to get it closed again.  We had been running the refrigerator on the inverter but knew that we would exhaust that power supply soon.  Since we had our refrigerator and freezer fairly full, we had to decide what food to try to salvage.  We filled all our coolers with what would fit and bought a 20-pound bag of ice from the Shell station. 

Phil contacted one of the owners of the campground in Baileys Harbor and cancelled our weeklong reservation.  Under the circumstances, she was kind and waived the one-night cancellation fee.

Phil starting checking for a place for us to spend the night.  Abrams, WI is a very small town and had no lodging nearby.  Green Bay was 12-miles away but all the hotels cost $120+.  Phil finally settled on a $65 motel that was 33-miles north of Abrams.  We quickly learned that you don’t get much for $65.  Check-in was a unique experience.  We each had to provide our drivers licenses and fill out a lengthy registration form, with eight sections which each needed to be initialed.  We then learned that we would have to wait 15 minutes to get in our room because the comforter was in the dryer.  We didn’t even want to think about why the comforter had to be washed.  When we finally got in the room, it wasn’t terrible but the bed was very hard.  We tried the TV but we were only able to get one channel. 

After our stressful day, we fell asleep quickly.  However, Phil was awakened at midnight with hip hop music blaring outside our door.  The music continued for about ten minutes, then stopped, only to return about ten minutes later.  Sometime later in the night, a train roared past the motel with its horn blasting.  With all the stress of our truck issues, Phil found it difficult to get back to sleep after these episodes.  Although Jan was able to sleep through the noise, the hard bed kept her awake much of the night.  People started leaving the motel before 6 a.m., which made for an early awakening. 

Phil spent most of the night pondering our options.  He had talked to a diesel mechanic on Monday about having the emission system deleted and, although illegal, was starting to seriously consider it.  However, it would have required us to get the truck towed 91-miles to Florence, WI and we would have still had to get the trailer towed to some campground, assuming we could get reservations.  We had previously located a new DEF pump at a Dodge dealer in Sauk City, WI and had scheduled an installation for July 27th.  However, it was 168-miles from Abrams to Sauk City and we didn’t want to have the truck towed that far.  The best option appeared to be for us to drive to Sauk City and buy the part and return it to Abrams to have it installed.  However, we had sensed some reluctance by dealers to selling the part, without doing the installation, so we weren’t sure the Sauk City dealer would agree to this option. 

Fortunately, when Phil called the Sauk City service manager on Tuesday morning and gave him our sob story, he agreed to sell us the part.  We quickly checked out of the hotel and began a long day of driving, despite being exhausted.  We ended up covering 370 miles and, other than pulling through a McDonalds for breakfast, didn’t stop for meals.  We managed to buy the pump in Sauk City and hand it over to the Abrams service manager before he left for the day at 4:30 p.m.  He assured Phil that he would get the pump installed on Wednesday, although it might be late in the afternoon.  We were feeling optimistic so we called the campground in Baileys Harbor and reclaimed the remaining five days of our reservation.  The owner had to do some rearranging but managed to get us our original site for the whole stay.

After our Monday night motel experience, we decided we needed better lodging for Tuesday night.  While we were driving, Jan was able to find us a good rate at a Country Inn & Suites in Green Bay.  Compared to the motel, the room at the Country Inn was wonderful.  We walked to a nearby pizzeria and had a delicious Chicago-style pizza.  We slept much better on Tuesday night, although Jan did roll off the queen-sized bed during the night.

We killed time on Wednesday morning and stayed in the room until the noon checkout time.  Since we were in Green Bay, we decided we should visit Lambeau Field, rather than just hang out at the Chrysler dealership.  Although we didn’t get to tour Lambeau Field, we did spend over an hour at Titletown, a unique community development next to the stadium.  In addition to restaurants and a hotel, Titletown features a large public park with outdoor games, fitness activities and a winter skating rink and tubing hill.  The Play 60-theme area has a regulation football field, electronically-timed 40-yard dash, climbing structures, slides and more.  Throughout the plaza, there are horseshoes, bean bag toss, shuffleboard, bocce, ping pong and foosball.  They also have books, magazines, board games, and art supplies ready for use, all free of charge.  We climbed the tubing hill and played some shuffleboard.

We returned to the car dealership around 2:30 and were relieved to learn that the repair work was going well.  At 4 p.m., the repairs were completed and we were able to get on the road again.  After retrieving our fifth-wheel from the Park and Ride lot, we began the 87-mile drive to Baileys Harbor.  We did have to stop once along the way due to our front legs dropping but, other than that, the trip went smoothly.  We are both very hopeful that our truck problems have been resolved and that we will not have to face such a stressful situation again.

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