Broke Down Benny

We were suppose to be in Death Valley tonight. We packed Benny up and headed out around 11am. But we didn’t get far.

Less than 30 miles outside Las Vegas, Benny broke down. A puff of smoke from the dash, a burnt smell and the engine and electrical controls turned off.

A nice day to break down...

At first I really couldn’t be upset. I just kept thinking it could have been so much worse – an accident, the transmission, something requiring a fire extinguisher. We could have been in the middle of the desert without cell service. And that’s what this trip was about anyway; a test run. So instead of stressing out, we played games and kept Justin from getting frustrated as he tinkered. His dad drove out in hopes of helping. But in the end, and with the help of a friend’s phone book back home, we had to call a tow truck.

That’s about the time I started to get discouraged. I feel like this damn city has a stranglehold on me and refuses to let us leave. Following the tow truck back to the mechanic was disheartening enough but as we turned onto our street I felt even more depressed. It had that foreign but familiar feeling already – like you get when you’ve been away for a lot longer than 7 hours. I know it was only suppose to be a two day trip but it felt like the beginning of something brought to a rather abrupt end. And here we are: stuck and begrudged.

I’ve spent the last several hours going through the gamut of emotions – from amused over the story we’ll someday retell to disappointed. I’ve questioned whether this was a sign we are on the wrong path…or just a sign we bought the wrong RV.


And I’ve wondered what we’ll do without the support system we had in place today, without a parent to give us a lift or a friend to make a call. Will we be able to manage when it’s just the three of us in the middle of nowhere?

And for fuck’s sake, will this RV even make it to the middle of nowhere when it can’t even make it to the state line?

Update: We picked the RV up today (the 15th; less than 24 hours after dropping it off.) The mechanic said the electrical wiring under the dash was a mess, with lots of extraneous wiring and poorly connected. Apparently, one of the wires touched something metal which fried the whole thing. The kicker: Had we known or discovered the potential problem, it would have cost us $15 for a DIY repair. I don’t even want to think about what it cost us instead. ::sigh:: Oh, well. Such is life, shit happens and all that jazz. We’re hoping to reschedule our trip within a week and are crossing our fingers all will be well!

41 Replies to “Broke Down Benny”

  1. Oh! And I, too, have hopes of saddling up and leaving town with a trailer in tow. Is it a serious/expensive issue with the RV? Sorry to hear about your disappointing day.
    Love to you.

  2. (HUGS) to ya!
    Disappointing indeed! Hope so much that it’s just a fuse or something minor that needs replacing!Glad it happened on the test run while you did have your back ups in place, all the same. Over the past couple months of ‘getting to know you’ through your blog & tweets it seems to me if anyone could handle being broken down in the middle of nowhere with grace, dignity, and their head on straight it would be you! Hears to that being the last snag! 🙂

  3. Just saw your update on Twitter, and I’m so sorry – but it will happen. With your family’s open attitude toward this change, it is going to okay. I’m sure of it!

    On a side note, I am completely in love with your new blog design. I’ve been wanting to fix mine up, but I’m ever-so-slightly technologically challenged!

  4. FWIW: We only got about half an hour out of port before having engine trouble when we cut lines on our boat, so you did better than we did on our shakedown cruise! That’s why we were anchored in a bayou when hurricane Rita roared ashore instead of out in the open ocean, so in retrospect, it was a very good thing.

    I remember the frustration/disappointment, though, and you have my sympathy. Just remember that you *are* moving ahead. Engine trouble is part of cruising, by land or by sea, but it’s well worth it! It’s just bumps in the road, and some of the bumps end up being part of your best stories and memories.

  5. Oh Tara, bummer! I suppose this is what test runs are for, to a degree. I disagree about taking it as a sign, though. Sometimes there are signs, I think, and sometimes things just happen and it sucks, but there are no signs. It’s only your personal choice that matters. There are so many ways to look at the situation. It could be a sign that you shouldn’t go, I guess, or it could be a crappy situation that in retrospect makes perfect sense, like Ronnie’s boat being ashore during the Hurricane. Or, it could be almost a test: are you really ready for this? If you are, you’ll be pushing through these kinds of issues regularly, since the adventure also comes with uncertainty. I wouldn’t chalk it up as cosmic intervention just yet. I hope you all are feeling more peaceful this morning – it had to be stressful!

  6. I’m really hoping and thinking that this was a good thing. Maybe it’s a little, easily-fixed problem that you wouldn’t have known about without making this trial run. And, you’re right … I can’t imagine it happening in the middle of the desert without cell service.

    Don’t let this get you down. It’s just one step closer! xo

  7. What Ronnie said! Just a little taste of what you have to deal with with this lifestyle, but you did fine. And don’t forget, with the internet, you can call me and I can look up whatever services you need wherever you are, right? Stop feeling like Vegas is holding you back…or it will. Seriously, keep your eyes on the prize….

  8. That truly sucks 🙁 I am confident you will look bad one day with giggles and smiles. Keep on truckin’ 🙂 And thanks for sharing your sorrow.

  9. Just a bump in the road. Keep truckin and for pete’s sake get a fire extinguisher! And now that I think about it, we were in the middle of no where Wyoming when our home and livelihood burned to the ground. No friends, but we had the kindness of strangers. You will too. We kept on treckin for another 3 years. “Oh Yeah-Life goes on, even after the thrill of living is gone!”

  10. Tara – if it’s a sign perhaps it’s a sign that this is indeed your right path – those right changes are often/usually the most challenging for me 🙂

    Maybe AAA or something like that would be in order before you head out again?

    Have faith!

  11. Thanks all.

    @miranda, We weren’t planning on getting internet, and were going to instead rely on free wi-fi hotspots. I’m reconsidering that now.

    @Elizabeth, we have a brand new fire extinguisher! I forgot about your fire. Yikes.

    @Deb, yeah, we’re looking into AAA now.

  12. Turn that frown upside down! It’s all about the journey. And yes, the journey sometimes does include break downs, lets downs, and fall downs. Pick yourself back up and move on. This was simply just a test. Don’t get discouraged.

    Sending positive vibes to you all!

    Sam 🙂

  13. Instead of thinking of it as a sign of some sort – think of it as you had originally planned – a test. A test of “worst case scenario” instead of the best one…

    Also, if you can afford it. A subscription to AAA is so wonderful for those times when you’re away from people you know and need a tow or any other kind of Auto help. I know they’ve come in handy for me – like the time I broke down on the interstate just outside Chicago during rush hour and I didn’t know a soul. I’m assuming they have a RV service of some sort, but I don’t know for sure.

    I’m sending lots of positive vibes and love your way.

  14. Poor Benny! Ugh, I know what it is like to feel stuck. I was stuck in the desert, too, but in Utah. Lucky for me my mom offered to bring me to Oregon and stay with her till I figured out what to do (she and my stepdad even hauled all my stuff in the their trailer). How long would I have stayed there if she didn’t rescue me? Too bad all your support is where you’re trying to get away from instead of where you’re trying to get to!

  15. Im sorry to here about your maiden voyage! This lifestyle has a way to slow us down when we need it whether we think so or not. You will tell the story later on and smile about it ! PEACE and LOVE!

  16. I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime now. Can’t remember how I first can upon it? Anyways, so excited to hear about your adventure. Wish we would be so daring. If you ever head into Phoenix I’d love to meet you all and Benny. Good luck and glad the problem wasn’t too bad!

  17. Oh geesh. Joel and I read this together and just really felt for your guys. We know that feeling of being so hyped on something and when the floor seemingly falls out it’s so hard to keep your chin up.

    I know that you know it’s all a journey and each part is the perfect part of the journey, but I’m feeling for you as you figure it out.

  18. i’m thinking about you guys, and i think jodi’s right… there is good in this somewhere, lady love. when i packed up my car to leave Ohio right after high school my car broke down in Columbus… one and a half hours after i left my parent’s house. I made it to California… I’m still here 🙂
    i’m eagerly awaiting news!

  19. Oh, no! Hopefully this will be just one little distraction from the wonderful trip planned ahead of you. I hope that the rest of your trip goes smoothly!

  20. Tara, think about this is just a little little accident in front of your fantastic trip.
    In Italy we said “Quando si chiude una porta si apre un portone”, and that mean some like “when somebody close the door in front of you, one hundred doors will be open for you!”

    Ok, good luck and…sorry for my english, I know, is orrible 😉

  21. Darn! I am loving Edera’s quote, that is just perfect.
    So glad this was just a test run, and I hope it’s not too expensive Tara.
    Thinking of you and sending positive vibes for the rest of the adventure.

  22. You knew this stuff could happen. It happened in a good place too. Not 200 miles away from home and help. Get it fixed, get back on the horse, no room for self pity or second guessing now. You ARE doing this and it’s gonna be epic!!!!!!! Hugs!!

  23. i’m new to your blog and love, love it. i was sent here for your specifics on no ‘poo (i have dreads that are about two months old). at one point you weren’t washing your scalp with the baking soda but it seems that you now are, is that right?

    so sorry to hear about benny, but when the time is right, it will happen. you have to believe! can’t wait to follow your journey and so curious to read about your unschooling (off to read that next).

    dh is in the military (8 years left)…when he retires, we’re going to live on a sailboat and travel the americas for a couple years. we’re going to give back at every place we stop. i just love hearing about others’ journeys and look forward to following your blog.

    thanks for being a new inspiration.

    all the best,

  24. I know we always had something going on when we were living in our camper. If it wasn’t getting it stuck in quicksand, it was enduring a summer in the desert with THREE broken generators, a 6 month old, 12 y.o., two cats and a fish.
    I wouldn’t change a minute of it except for the amount of time we lived in the camper! I would have done it LONGER!
    Keep your chin up! It’s all about the journey, right? 😀

  25. Sorry, I can’t help but laugh! 🙁 If only we had stuck to our guns and filmed all the CRAP we’ve been through in the just the first 6 months! Welcome to The Wonderful World of RVing – not to mention the world of FULL TIME rving! Even those really expensive rigs break down – or worse – their toilet plumbing isn’t attached to their toilet and shit leaks down into every crack and crevasse imaginable, they just kept ignoring the smell, thinking they just had stinky tanks. A $250,000 useless pile of shit (literally!) – the whole rig had to be replaced and it wasn’t even paid for! So yes, it could have been worse. 🙂

    We felt the SAME way about the town we were in, no matter what we did, it always seemed to pull us back. “Nobody gets out of ‘The Bay’. Nobody” We think of it as an invisible bungie cord – always snapping us back ‘home’ at the most inopportune moment. Just keep trying, eventually the cord gets worn out and breaks! 😀

    Benny is going to keep testing you, just keep blogging about it, that’s the good stuff! (and AAA is completely worth it BTW!)

  26. It was a test run, despite your excitement. And it did what it said on the tin. Without this run you would have discovered the messy electrics on the real trip. Hang on to that thinking.

  27. On the up side, you know that it was something that HAS been fixed, and it’s not something that was caused from wear and tear… so you don’t have to worry about it happening again!!

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