Well greetings to all who are keeping up on our cheap rv living blog – have we got a post for you! An unexpected stop in the City of Hardin, MT. We just knew things were going a bit too smoothly for us…something we aren’t quite used to experiencing. I’ve titled this post our 4-H Club and will lay it out in that amusing format for your entertainment. Will say the good news is that we crossed the Montana state line (yeah!). That’s it…that’s all the good news I’ve got.
Buckle up…here we go!!!!!!!
Well it just goes to show you that you can’t plan for everything…how boring life would be, eh? After our past experiences, we thought we were prepared as could be with new tires, bearings, brakes…all of the important stuff were tip-top shape on both truck and 5th wheel.
On Wednesday, June 5th, we were due to arrive in Billings, MT to visit with family. We took a nice leisurely stop at the Custer Battlefield exit – my dad’s favorite place which I’ve been to a few times (didn’t go in this time, anxious to get to our destination). Got back on the road and drove for a bit when something happened…Jim felt something pull/drag in the steering and we pulled off of the highway, assuming we had a flat. If you aren’t familiar with the terrain, be sure to amuse yourself with a road map of the area between Hardin, Montana and Billings. MIDDLE OF NOWHERESVILLE, USA.
So welcome to the world of rv emergency roadside assistance when stranded on the highway! Yeehaw! We discovered the right front hub on the truck was scalding hot to touch. We tested driving a little bit but something was wrong and we obviously weren’t going to chance it. We were only 38 miles from Billings and 12 miles from the city of Hardin, MT. Remember those distances…they’ll be important later.
Anyone who has needed roadside assistance for rv knows there is nothing funny about it. If you are a fulltime rver like us, your home is now on the side of the highway. Add pets into the mix and you’re even more stressed about how to handle it all.
But one funny thing did happen as we sat stranded on the highway, waiting for help. A state trooper who looks JUST like the stereotype you would expect (mirrored sunglasses, stern face, mustache, “the walk” up to you like you’re in trouble even if you did nothing) surprised us. We were toward the truck so didn’t see him pull up behind the 5th wheel. He came around the back of the rv and with the sternest, most serious voice he said to us, “uh, you can’t camp here.” Before we could respond in shock, he cracked a wide smile and said, “just kidding!!” He was the friendliest guy you could ever meet and hung out with us for a little while, asking what happened. We made more jokes about if he sees us in a few hours to please come help in case the tow truck never shows. We needed that humor desperately.
So when you are stranded and need roadside assistance for a truck and 5th wheel, there is something important you need to recognize. If the 5th wheel was broken down, you could just pop in your truck. If the truck is broken down…well that’s a dilemma…the camper can’t drive itself. Welcome to the joys of needing TWO tow trucks in the middle of nowhere. What’s even better is that you have to disconnect on the highway! Hooray!
So here is an rv tip when looking for insurance for rvs – be sure your company will tow your recreational vehicle at no charge if the tow vehicle isn’t operating. Many companies will not pay to tow your camper!
We pay for emergency roadside service on the truck AND 5th wheel. If either breaks down, towing is included, of course. But what happens if your travel trailer or fifth wheel is perfectly fine? Again, read the fine print because many insurance plans make YOU pay to tow. Fortunately, Geico is not one of those companies (great rv coverage to date) and they paid for both tow trucks that we needed at no charge. Whew!
The “hell” part, however, is that they only tow to the nearest repair shop…in Hardin, Montana. We begged and pleaded for them to make an exception, given we were 12 miles from Hardin and 38 miles from Billings…but to no avail. We were going backwards 12 miles and being dumped in a town with little repair service to choose from, completely at the mechanic’s mercy, on a very limited budget. We knew it was coming…overcharge for repair city.
In our frugal rv lifestyle, whenever we need repairs we spend days researching prices, discounts, reviews, warranties – all to make a sound decision on how our money is spent. We’ve had so much luck having independent certified mechanics who work from home go above and beyond, giving our vehicles TLC and better labor rates than most shops. Now we are stuck with where we were getting dropped off and we knew it wouldn’t be good. Two new hubs which should have cost $300 at most? $481.00 – that really hurt the budget.
Ah but look at the bright side! We got to spend a lovely 24 hours in the beautiful city of Hardin, MT (sarcasm). It looks a lot like the desert this time of year. Hardin MT weather was sunny and hot – we were on foot so we basically sat in the a/c, waiting for the dreaded phone call with the diagnosis and estimate. Funny, the estimate was $426 and then the next day it was magically $481! Hey, I’ve gotta try that sometime! I should have given the repair shop $375 given 50 dollars, give or take, is apparently a non-issue to him. Ah well…I believe in karma to some extent – people who constantly take advantage of others for monetary gain…well they must not be very happy people….
I’m rambling on too long…the basic outcome is that the next day we were free from Hardin and we made that 50 mile drive to Billings. Let’s just say it was the longest 50 miles we’ve driven. Getting out, testing the hubs, getting back in. We were both so grumpy with headaches by the time we got to our campground! We decided to spend quality time with family for four nights – to visit, relax and unwind – before getting on the road again.
So those were our 4-H’s…hubs, humor, hell and Hardin. Tomorrow (Monday, June 10) we begin the last 500 miles of our trip. You heard right! Even though we are in MT, it is a huge state…we aren’t near home yet! We’re going to the NW corner of Montana, so lots of miles to go still. Of course, once you’ve had a road problem you just aren’t as relaxed, either…but will take it a day at a time. At least we’re in Montana…we can dump the vehicles and hitch-hike home if need be!!
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