Tea Bus Breakdown – Garberville, CA

Getting towed in Garberville

The first long distance ride I ever took without packing my bus full of ridesharers I broke down. A month earlier I had put five people, two bikes, and a bunch of gear in the bus for a trip from Berkeley to Arcata, when we broke down before even leaving town. Fortunately, I had posted an “Adventure Offered” on Craig’s List instead of a “Ride Offered.” The riders gladly accepted that we were going to be on the side of the road for a while, and actually made light of the situation and had a great time connecting, playing, and serving tea to people passing by.

It seemed to be the same sort of mechanical issue this time when I broke down in Garberville. There was air leaking into the fuel lines, causing my bus to not keep running once started or under load. Last time a friend biked all the way to the Ford dealer in Oakland to grab me a $1.83 seal to replace the one that biodiesel had corroded. This time there was no Ford dealer nearby, and I wasn’t even sure where the leak was coming from. After the nice folks at a realty office let me use their Jeep to try to jump my batteries (which were dead from trying to start and restart my bus so much), I went to NAPA, and the junkyard to no avail, I decided to turn to AAA.

Not the best day

When I realized AAA couldn’t tow me until the next day, my friend suggested over the phone, “Do what you do best. You’re not going anywhere. Serve tea.” I took his advice and met another couple who lived in their broke down van a block up the street. They were kind and shared dinner with me.

The tow truck driver told me that I was lucky that my Washington State AAA Plus RV covered me in California with its 100 mile tow limit, because in California the limit is something like one or two hours from when the tow truck leaves the shop until it returns. At the price rate of over $200/hour for this bigger truck, it would have cost me $600 to $700 if I had CA AAA Plus and over $1000 if I had no AAA. Thank God (or my mother, rather) that I was covered, and the whole trip cost me nothing, as it was only 75 miles.

Lessons Learned:
On 1993 and earlier vehicles, replace not only the fuel lines, but all the seals that come into contact with your fuel (and the one way valve mounted on your fuel filter housing on 7.3 IDI Ford/International engines).
When you are stuck somewhere, make light of the situation and serve free tea.
Spend the extra for AAA Plus. It’s well worth it.

Carefull with her underside now...

UPDATE: Problem ended up being an air leak in my stock fuel lift pump, probably caused by use of biodiesel. A $30 dollar part and 40 minute fix! Worth replacing anyways if you plan on running biodiesel or WVO. I figured out the problem by slowly adding clear fuel lines to my system moving backwards from the fuel filter housing.

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