Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Enter the Wagon

Yesterday evening I pulled into Stromsburg, Nebraska after 7-1/2 hours of driving, twice my self-alotted amount. That’s because after a hot, moist evening at the Iowa I-80 “World’s Largest” Truck Stop, I knew it’d be the same deal at a highway rest stop near Casey, Iowa the next night. On the face of it, I-80 Truck Stop is fab. They’ve got roomy pull-throughs to get automotive diesel, a decent sit-down restaurant and a fast food place, all the truck-related geegaws you could ever hope to see, convenience store, clothing counter, electronics counter…heck, they’ve even got a selection of raccoon hats just like Disney’s Dan’l Boone wore in the 1950s TV series! And the separate pull-through RV area away from the trucks is fairly rare to find at a truck stop.

But as an RV overnight spot, it’s still an all-night-noise truck stop. The RV slots are so narrow that 8-1/2 foot wide rigs like mine just skin through, an especially difficult task because the curved approach is often choked with overflow vehicles. Many RV drivers can’t cope with it, and wind up cutting down the limited number of spaces. At best, it’s a bad idea to leave folding doorsteps down or incautiously open doors.

I knew it would again be a hot day, and began early in the next day’s drive to think about the shade tree campground in Stromsburg Nebraska, a free city campground that offers electrical power and dump station. Though some 20 miles north of I-80, I figured it’d be worth it. What caught me by surprise was, rolling in at 7:30 PM Saturday, it appeared full of locals! One lap around showed one otherwise unused space occupied by a lone minivan, straddling a double-width space. Turned out to be a visiting guest of an elderly couple in a Mini-Winnie motorhome. They seemed a little imposed upon to move it somewhere else, as they had quite a gathering going on, but I was in no mood to do anything but graciously persist at best: long day, no nearby alternate areas known. The camper on my other side, a working guy with lots of kids and visitors had also packed an adjoining slot with extra vehicles, and quickly jumped up to offer to clear that space for me. But I had my eye on the lonely van, and he, unbidden, helped me back into the newly-cleared space. Only one or two spots here are big enough for the Defiant’s magnificent new 55-foot length (thanks to the bike rack now hanging off the front end), so I had to unhitch. Oh, the peace and quiet. And being that late in the day, the heat had died down to merely “Sweaty but Survivable”.

I find myself on a quest for coolness this trip, probably because I won’t find any once I arrive at Bonneville. So tomorrow, I’ll survive 8 hours of driving to get to Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest in Wyoming. That’s an excessively scenic spot at some 8,000′ elevation, which will means temperatures in the low 70s. This is good for me. But the weather will be bad, with persistent rain for several days, so the campsite I used last year will be a mud pit. Finding a workable spot for the Defiant there may be a challenge, as it doesn’t seem to be geared for larger rigs. Unless I feel like riding the e-bike in the pouring rain, I may have to find a spot the old-fashioned way. I can stay there one night or three, depending on whim. The next stop in Green River will be about 80 degrees, and is a place with inspiring views and wild horses in view, virtually guaranteed. By the way, actual on-location temperatures are invariably five or so degrees warmer than predicted whenever the sun is out. And it feels like it.

The concern on this trip has centered around the Mighty Furd, which is flashing little dollar signs on its message center LCD as I drive along. That began on Day 1 of the trip. More specifically, it says “TRAILER BRAKE MODULE FAULT” which almost certainly means that a board has gone bad and it needs diagnosis at a Furd dealership to see if it took anything else with it or had a deliberate cause. The trailer brake controller applies the Innsbruck’s electric brakes and, and as the Ford manual states, this fault still makes them work, sorta, but the brake controller’s functionality is impaired. Seems fine to me.

Day 2 brought more of that but another error message, “TRAILER WIRING PROBLEM”. Oh my. That little missive appears frequently but irregularly, without any discernible pattern. It indicates that there may be a short circuit in the trailer, perhaps from an insulation sheath being worn though at a passthrough. The fact that it’s intermittent makes it particularly unwelcome, because that makes it much more difficult to locate and fix. My hope, actually, is that the bad module is now displaying false alarms, because a short appearing a day later in the trailer’s wiring is just too coincidental for my taste.

Neither issue can be fixed along the way until I get to Parker, Arizona, 30 miles north of Quartzsite, in mid-October. There’s a decent Ford dealership there, and a potential place to drop the trailer and camp a couple miles away as needs be, to wait the process out.

But wait – there’s more! I finally went into the Iowa I-80 Truck Museum, which is in the truck stop complex. It’s free, so it was an easy decision. Below are just a few of the many vehicles in there.

This 1913 Rambler truck cost $2,350, the price of the average house, and was bought by a plumber in Rock Island, Illinois. A pipe carrier rack is mounted off the passenger side. Weighing in at 4,150 pounds, it can haul a 2,000-pound load. Of necessity, its tires are solid rubber, not pneumatic like today.

This 1913 Rambler truck cost $2,350, the price of the average house, and was bought by a plumber in Rock Island, Illinois. A pipe carrier rack is mounted off the passenger side. Weighing in at 4,150 pounds, it can haul a 2,000-pound load. Of necessity, its tires are solid rubber, not pneumatic like today.

This 1927 Fisher Jr. was crafted into a moving van in the aftermarket, and remained in use until 1948. Fishers were made by the Standard Motor Truck Company in Detroit from 1912 to 1933, when the Great Depression took its toll on them. Unlike GM and Chrysler today, the government didn't bail them out. Back in those days, poor management  meant bankruptcy, period. Some better-run competitor would take the company's place in the market.

This 1927 Fisher Jr. was crafted into a moving van in the aftermarket, and remained in use until 1948. Fishers were made by the Standard Motor Truck Company in Detroit from 1912 to 1933, when the Great Depression took its toll on them. Unlike GM and Chrysler today, the government didn’t bail them out. Back in those days, poor management meant bankruptcy, period. Some better-run competitor would take the company’s place in the market.

This 1911 Walker Electric Model 43 was built and bought in Chicago for use by the Bowman Dairy for delivery to restaurants and hospitals. It could carry an incredible 6,000 pounds and go 40-50 miles on a charge. Electric trucks predate gas trucks and dominated the market because of operating costs and the lack of downtime. The nations infrastructure at the time  offered no inter-city roads, and railroads delivered the goods. So electric trucks were best suited to take it from there. One populations began to fan out and roadways were created, the improved gas trucks made more sense and took over.

This 1911 Walker Electric Model 43 was built and bought in Chicago for use by the Bowman Dairy for delivery to restaurants and hospitals. It could carry an incredible 6,000 pounds and go 40-50 miles on a charge. Electric trucks predate gas trucks and dominated the market because of operating costs and the lack of downtime. The nation’s infrastructure at the time offered no inter-city roads, and railroads delivered the goods. So electric trucks were best suited to take it from there. Once populations began to fan out and roadways were created, the improved gas trucks made more sense and took over. By 1900, gas vehicles remained a small niche. By 1910, they dominated the market, but local deliveries remained a holdout for electrics. This Walker’s 15 MPH top speed was not an issue in city traffic.

1922 Packard dump truck. I was surprised to discover that Packard made trucks from 1903-1923, and this one could hit a blistering 28 MPH. In 1911, a Packard truck made the first cross-country haul in 46 days, expensive and useless compared to railroads, but it served as a proof of improved reliability.

1922 Packard dump truck. I was surprised to discover that Packard made trucks from 1903-1923, and this one could hit a blistering 28 MPH. In 1911, a Packard truck made the first cross-country haul in 46 days, expensive and useless compared to railroads, but it served as a proof of improved reliability.

This kinky 1930 Ford Model A truck is fitted with skis and an extra axle for running tracks in the rear. The mail will get through!

This kinky 1930 Ford Model A truck is fitted with skis and an extra axle for running tracks in the rear. The mail will get through!

There are many more neat trucks in the museum, but my time is at a close for this post, so I’m choppin’ it off here!

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10 thoughts on “Enter the Wagon

  1. Cool museum. Stay cool if you can.

    • Thanks, JR. It is an impressive display and a testament to how much money the owner(s) of Iowa I-80 are raking in, because many of the trucks have been restored, and that’s expensive. It’s not exactly a tin shed, either. It’s also interesting that there are some people out there who collect and restore trucks instead of old cars.

      And I guess heat is relative: when I whined one day about the heat to a girl behind a counter, she said she preferred it, and it was just right for her. There’s no accounting for metabolism, I guess.

      • I like the heat too. It’s well over 90 outside and I’m going out to mow when I finish here. I spent the morning walking around taking pictures.
        I saw a restored truck at Walmart yesterday. I was surprised.

        • Amazing. I just don’t know how you can function. But a lot of people do!

          I would claim that some hobbyists collect and restore trucks because they are, unlike two or even now four-door vintage cars, affordable to start with. But the placards at the museum indicate that this theory doesn’t hold water – some guys have always accumulated and restored trucks, and the bigger the better.

  2. Before you spend any money on the truck side or controller it must have good wiring and connections. It could have worn through and caused a short but it could also be a poor connection. After years of water and corrosion it may need all of the wiring connections checked. There are connections on the axles at each wheel and just before the axles where it feeds both sides. I always go through and make sure the wire is shiny and not black or corroded, I also solder all the connections. No matter how many controllers they sell you it wont matter if there is excessive resistance in the brake wiring. Its far more likely to be a wiring issue before a component issue. I dont know anything about the Ford electric brake system but you may want to consider an after market brake controller, if that is actually where the problem is. It will get you out of the Ford dealerships and away from pricey modules. You and I need to spend some diy time together. This spending money thing has got to stop. 🙂

    • Well, the controller must go, as it gives me the same module warning even without the trailer being connected. There are several potential causes, and the dealer will have access to error codes that may point to something else to check first. It’s a rather complex system. I doubt that a short in the trailer took it out, as it’s protected against that.
      The manual says that the most common causes for a trailer wiring fault warning is a short somewhere, excessive power draw by the trailer brakes, or a pulled emergency brake pin. The second one is unlikely, since the trailer message only appears when the brakes are off. A bad 7-pin plug is a possibility too, and Ford may have a TSB on that. With the fix being quite some time away, I’ll have awhile to decide what to do, and when. The trailer wiring message started one day later, is so inconsistent, and it’s even flashed a “trailer disconnected” message once, so I’m suspicious that the defective module is now simply throwing messages. If a new module stays healthy and still points to the trailer as a problem, I’ll have to get into it. If things don’t work out, sounds like I’ll have to talk you into camping in Arizona under some alluring pretext, and then unceremoniously shove you under the trailer.

  3. Doug it has been cool and on off rainy this week……hope the salt flats don’t get rained out again this year. I have plans to go out this year, I bought a VW that set a world land speed record in 2006 and have been asked to bring it out. That is the plan, but not if the thunder storms continue.

    There is a good Ford dealer in Ogden and I can point you to some good spots.

    • Awesome! Being a simple spectator, I have at least become aware that it’s all in the tuning and fuel delivery, which is quite a challenge at speed. Which event will you hope to run in? And good luck!

      Like everyone else, all I can do is get there and hope for decent track conditions. Since the work on the Ford may take several days and I’ll need a (free) place to drop the trailer a short distance away and wait that out, I think I will stick with having that issue addressed after Bonneville. Last year, I arrived after the first event, and the rest were rained out. I don’t want a repeat. But thanks for the offer.

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