Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen...

...except my husband, because he was there with me this time.

We had quite an ordeal hauling the horses today.
(Don't worry, all are safe. No gory accident story follows.)

I had a lot of trouble pulling the horse trailer in the mountains with my crappy old 1994 F250 turbo diesel last summer. I experienced overheating and extreme loss of power going over the mountains. It received major repairs at a diesel specialty shop after that trip, but I've still been having repetitious problems with the truck. Lately, my eyes have burned as I get fumigated with diesel odor while driving. It needed to go back to the shop, but I've lost faith in my diesel specialist.

I said to my husband last week, "I don't want to take the truck back to So-and-So Diesel Repair because it always costs us $1,000.00 to go there and I think they are missing things. Let's take it to the Ford dealer."

Ha ha ha. Famous last words. $2,550.00 in repairs later and I still have a crappy old truck; however my eyes aren't burning anymore. I'm happy with the mechanic and what he did. But dealer service prices are outrageous! We can't be doing this very often.

The mechanic found my fuel leak. Turns out the fuel leak was likely caused by So-and-So Diesel Repair. When So-and-So Diesel replaced all of the injectors last year, they didn't bother to replace the o-rings at the same time. Most of the o-rings around the injectors were leaking fuel.

The dealer mechanic also found excessive and large slivers of metal on the rear differential plug. Not a good sign. He had to take apart the rear diff and replace the pinion and carrier bearings. Of course, there were other things that needed repairing, but the leaking o-rings and the rear diff were the biggies.

We had a long talk with the the service adviser at the dealership and he was hopeful that repairing the fuel leak and a few other things might have fixed the poor towing performance. He suggested we do a test and pull a load up into the mountains and see how it does. My husband agreed.

This morning, we loaded Misty and Marley in the trailer and headed out for a long drive in the mountains with me at the wheel. It was a beautiful, warm day, and I've been wanting check out a dude ranch where I would like to go camping and trail riding.

We made it up a steep mountain pass with better performance than I expected, gaining hope that maybe the recent (and obscenely expensive) repairs did the trick. But as we passed through town, we started to experience some power loss.

We stopped at a red light. When it turned green I began to accelerate, but had no power. I had to shift down to 2nd to get the truck to slowly creep forward. We had watched the transmission temperature rise as we climbed the mountain and it was still high. Not in the yellow zone, but getting close at about 200 degrees.

So we stopped for a bite to eat at Taco Bell while the transmission cooled.

We'd made it over the toughest part of the drive and decided to press on to the ranch.

And then it happened!

Traveling up the steep dirt road leading to the ranch, the truck began to go slower...and s l o w e r...and s.l..o...w....e.....r, until it came to a halt. We were perplexed. So we put it in 4-wheel drive, hoping that's what we needed on this dirt road. Even in 4WD, I could not get any forward movement. The tires just wouldn't turn.

We were stuck. Stuck and blocking the 1-lane dirt road leading to this dude ranch, on a holiday weekend, during the guest check-in window.

My husband called the ranch and gave them the bad news that we were stranded on their road, with a horse trailer, and blocking access to their place.

I wanted to cry. Breaking down in any vehicle, anywhere is no fun. But breaking down with horses in tow is miserable at best. I find it frightening. And it wasn't long before someone pulling a giant 5th wheel RV came along behind us and had to wait.

The owner of the ranch was very, very nice. He came down in his F550 and towed us (truck and trailer and horses all together) up to his ranch and told us we could turn Misty and Marley out in their arena so they could rest and stretch their legs. I did that while my husband and the ranch hands peered into the truck engine and talked manly truck talk.

Misty and Marley were happy to be loose in the big arena. Marley immediately rolled in the dirt and Misty began eating the manure of strangers. I hate it when she does that! She doesn't eat manure at home, but loves to sample the dried droppings left behind by unknown equines.

After letting the transmission cool for an hour, we were on our way home.

It was smooth sailing down the mountain toward home. And my husband drove!!! My nerves were shot and I was glad to sit in the passenger seat.

But as we were nearing home, on relatively flat ground, we had some power loss again; and this time the transmission temperature was not unusually high.

What do you think it could be? I think the crappy old truck has a crappy old transmission. We've already put more into the truck in repairs than we paid for it. I think it is time to part company and this old truck needs to find a home with a young man who likes big, noisy trucks and likes to get his hands dirty.

I live in Colorado. I want to trail ride. I need a truck that can do mountains.

This old F250 is my first truck and my only experience towing horses. I'm now afraid to haul my horses with this truck. It's not safe and it scares me.

What do you drive? Gas? Diesel? How much load can you pull and do you have any trouble pulling up hills, particularly in the mountains?

Tow vehicle recommendations wanted.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

I haven't dropped out of the blogosphere.

I've just been too busy to blog because this is what my job has been like lately:

It's that work-life-horse balance dilemma again. Work has been consuming my life. Something has to give, so I've kept the computer off at home while I squeeze in some horse time before collapsing at the end of the day. But there are a few accomplishments and fun things to report:
  • I attended a parade and helped on the ground crew. I love a small town parade.
  • Marley and I had a nice driving lesson where I received some good instruction and practice using a driving whip and keeping communication with the lines while driving him through big puddles (remember...Marley doesn't like water).
  • I attended an interesting rein board training class designed to help driving students learn to hold the lines and use a driving whip, while keeping proper contact...without actually driving a real, live horse. Driving lines attached to weighted ropes and pulleys simulate the feel of a horse at the end of the lines. Here is an example. In our class, we didn't have an actual board that the pulleys were attached to. We tied pulleys onto a hitching rail. It's a good way to practice (without annoying and confusing your poor horse) and see the affect you have when you lengthen and shorten your lines. Then try to use a driving whip and watch what happens to the weights as you "drive".
  • Marley and I attended a 2 day trail riding clinic. It was a lot of fun and we played with many interesting obstacles. Marley is great walking over a teeter-totter bridge and passing through swim noodles suspended from a frame. And he absolutely loved pushing around the giant soccer ball as I rode him toward it. First he nudged it gently with his nose; the ball rolled forward slightly, then back into his face. How rude of it! So he gave it an aggressive nudge the next time and sent it rolling forward. We followed after the ball and Marley kept pushing it forward like he wasn't gonna let some giant 6 foot tall beach ball get the better of him.
  • I took a riding lesson on Misty with a new instructor last week and she pointed out many things I need to improve upon. My biggest challenge is to ride with loose reins and get off of Misty's mouth before she gets irritated and starts developing behavior problems.
I hope to be posting and reading more often, as I get a better grip on the stress I'm under at work. I've missed reading your blogs and hope everyone is enjoying their best horse buddies.