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It’s not that surprising to us that we find ourselves in a situation just 60 miles into our 2000+ mile journey. The first 24 hours of our full time travel journey have been a tad ridiculous, even for us.

However, with the early pain of our adventure, we have found solace in good friends. We wouldn’t say we have a large number of friends, but the ones we do are the best.

The Day from “Hell”ena

We launched from Helena, Montana Friday morning around nine. Jena was teary eyed as we drove away from her parent’s house.

We made a quick stop in Townsend, and continued on toward Bozeman.

The plan was to make a quick stop in Bozeman to say goodbye to some friends and then continue on to Billings, Montana where we would stay for the night. That was the plan.

Today is Saturday. We are currently parked outside of Three Forks, Montana half way between Helena and Bozeman.

What Happened Between Helena and Bozeman?

We were dropping down Highway 287 just outside Three Forks, Montana and heard a bang, almost like a tire blowing. I quickly started slowing down and looking in my rear view mirrors to try and see if there was any tire rubber, dust, smoke, anything to figure out what happened.

I didn’t see anything, but then heard another bang just before coming to a stop.  Parked on the shoulder of the highway, I could see engine RPMs going up and down, along with the Tow/Haul indicator light on my dash blinking.

I popped the hood, got out of the truck and took a look for anything obvious.  Jena hopped online quick and started looking up why the Tow/Haul light was blinking.  The information we found said a transmission issue.

We decided to limp along with hazards on toward a shop just outside of town to see if they could diagnose the issue. They plugged in their diagnostic computer.

The issue: Transmission Range Sensor.

The good news: Not a major repair, part itself around $200 and not too labor intensive for someone who knows their way around a transmission.

The bad news: The part is only available through Ford, not in the aftermarket. No one has one on hand, so it needs to be ordered.  In Bozeman, where there are a number of shops that can do the install, they’re booked out a month on repair work.

Now its a holding pattern.  Its the weekend.  Places close early or don’t do the weekend at all.

Our Friends to the rescue

“Cannery” (our friend, also a Zach) came and picked us up out in Three Forks. We drove into Bozeman, spent time with him, his wife Shane, and our friends Daniel & Kristin having good food, lots of laughs and forgetting about our problems.

Zach lent us his pickup to get around in the mean time.  Daniel & Kristin offered their property to park our fifth wheel while we figured out what we were going to do.

Breaking Down Our Decisions

We took Saturday to “break down” our options for moving forward, pun intended.

Our big decisions:

  • How to arrange to have our truck repaired. Ordering the part and towing the truck to the mechanic.
  • Do we continue the journey with our truck or purchase a new one and send this one packing?
  • Where should we park the RV in the mean time? We have a budget to stick to.

We got in touch with our regular mechanic we used in Townsend, Montana to try to fix our current pickup’s transmission.  He can fix it as soon as he gets the part, but will take a few days to get.  We will tow it there ourselves as it’s not too far.

Today we took a look at new and slightly used pickups to replace our current truck.  Considering this start is not the best omen, maybe we should cut our losses.

We found a truck we like, but need to source a mount for our fifth wheel hitch to mount on said truck.  That may take some days, considering GMC is on strike.

We are staying at a small campground on the edge of Three Forks, with full hookups.  We have a few boondocking opportunities within a 1/4 mile that we’ll take advantage of to save a few dollars.  Looks like a week long break from the road.

Hopefully this week we get everything sorted and move along.  Not the start we hoped, but a great time to say an extended good bye to friends in the area and the place we’ve called home for years.

9am we are excited to get on the road

11am we are on the side of the road

What we learned over the past 24 hours

After coming to a screeching halt, going through a big range of emotions, and coming up with a plan we have learned a lot in a mere 24 hours.

First to just let go.  You can make a plan, with careful thought and preparation, but it can be blown out of the water in 5 minutes.  Its not what we wanted, but we’re making the best of it, and its been good.

Second it’s okay to be uncomfortable.  Even in an area we know well, with our truck in limp mode, it’s like being in a foreign country.  Taking a breath and a few minutes to sort it out and leaning on friends has made a difference.

Last it’s only as big of an issue as we choose to make it.  We’re going to enjoy Montana a little and keep going. No more and no less.

Forgetting our problems in Zach and Shane’s massage chair