Frank the Truck is unwell.

The conclusions from the inspection were mixed, but worrisome. On the one hand, his body is in good shape, without any of the rust that ruled out one truck for us, and most of his systems seem to be fine as well. On the other hand, he’s getting engine issue codes that could mean anything from a cam shaft or timing chain problem to the need for an entire new engine. And right now, we don’t know which we’re dealing with, since the mechanic who did the inspection can’t diagnose him with more specificity than that. We need to take him to a Ford dealer, they told us.

So we went looking for a Ford dealer which takes C’s warranty plan.

Good news: the nearest one to where we live (and to the mechanic where Frank was then located) does! Bad news: they don’t have an initial diagnostic appointment for Frank until 6/21. We were planning to leave on the road trip on 6/17.

After calling around to the other local Ford dealers with service departments and discovering they, too, were booked up to about the same time, we gave up and took the appointment offered. We moved Frank — who still runs, though every time we start him up it gets a little rougher to do so — to my kids’ father’s place to wait, because it was closer to both the mechanic and the Ford dealership than bringing him back to my place would be. That way, we have to drive him as little distance as possible before we figure out what’s wrong with him, and if he just won’t start up again to drive over there on the 21st, we will still be close enough to get him towed there.

With luck, whatever’s wrong with him will be something so clearly covered by the warranty that they won’t fight us on it. That should be the case with any of the possibilities we’ve been advised it might be, even replacing the engine. In fact, so long as they don’t fight us on covering it, that might be the best of all worlds for C, as it would get him an otherwise excellent-condition used truck with a brand new engine, for the price of an older truck; and it would presumably last much longer that way.

But I’m wary of how the warranty company will react to something with a massive cost to it, and I don’t want to have to fight them about it at all. So I’m nonetheless hoping for a lesser problem. Also, there is the timing issue involved.

I told you that Frank’s diagnostic appointment is a few days later than we’d intended to hit the road already. That’s starting to push the time really tightly, because J and I have our flights secured for Italy by now, and we depart on July 10. If I don’t leave for Colorado till June 23, say — just about the earliest possible date that could happen and still let them fix ANYTHING that might be wrong with Frank, no matter how trivial — I’m likely to get back home after the road trip with just about a week of turnaround time in which to pack my stuff, help my son pack his stuff, and ensure that every possible detail is sorted out before leaving for a month-long trip that will cover six cities in three countries before we come home.

I could do it with a week. I can’t do it with much less. And it’s very likely to be much less, especially if there’s anything major to repair. It’s guaranteed to be impossible if the engine needs replacing… they don’t even have an appointment to do that until the middle of July, after J and I will already be in Italy.

So we’re hoping fervently that they’ll fix Frank fast. (Try to say that ten times in rapid succession.) If they can’t, it looks like we will have two choices:

1) Keep C in Washington for two more months, after he’s already given up his job so he’s not even able to make more money here during that time, while J and I go to Europe, and then have me do the intended road trip with C in August when I’m back from Italy, or

2) Find a different way to get C and Frank to Colorado without me. I know there exist companies whose job is to drive vehicles that need to get somewhere, without making the owner do it, for example… maybe we can send C onward by plane after Frank is repaired, and then hire someone to drive Frank and hand him off to C in Alamosa. It’d be expensive, sure, but so would the gas and hotel bills to do it ourselves. It’s not going to be an enormous difference, I suspect.

I don’t know which we’ll do, if we have to. Since I’m still hoping we don’t have to, I haven’t looked into it. Things have been busy enough that I’m just as ready to leave anything that I may not need to think about until I’m sure that I do need to think about it, so that anything I don’t doesn’t take up my time.

Meanwhile, yes, we do have nailed-in Italy plans! Paid for and everything. The itinerary is:

  • July 10: Fly from Seattle to Rome by way of Frankfurt
  • July 11: Arrive in Rome. Check in at hotel and get some rest
  • July 12-14: Sightseeing in Rome
  • July 15: Rome to Sorrento by train
  • July 16: Tour of Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum of Naples
  • July 17: Free day in Sorrento
  • July 18: Naples to Florence by train
  • July 19-21: Sightseeing in Florence
  • July 22: Florence to Venice by train
  • July 23 into 24: Sightseeing in Venice
  • July 24-25: Overnight train from Venice to Amsterdam, through Germany
  • July 26-29: Sightseeing in Amsterdam
  • July 30: Fly Amsterdam to New York
  • August 4: Fly New York home to Seattle

The only thing I don’t have nailed down yet is my Amsterdam hotel, and that’s making me nervous, but I’m working on it! This stage of any trip always makes me nervous; everything is secured enough not to be easily changeable but not so secured that I’m feeling 100% confident that it’ll all fit together like clockwork.

It always does, though, or close enough. It did in Africa. I need to remember that.

Next week: All the things we’re going to be doing in Italy! Stay tuned.

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