Day 140 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1486 Hiked yesterday: 14 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 697
Papa Chip and I headed into the nearest town for Wifi and to try to figure out why the "check engine" light was on in the truck. While I posted the blog, Papa Chip ran a diagnostic test on the truck. Unlike the newer vehicles where you plug a "reader" into the computer onboard, our old Dodge requires turning the key on and off and counting the number of times the "check engine" light blinks. Then, Papa Chip searched the internet and found out that it most likely was the alternator ... UGH! I'd have preferred it to have been the battery. I know from experience that batteries are readily available ... alternators aren't always.
After a few minutes, he emerged from his office and told us he found one for us in New York. I immediately thought near New York City. He explained that it's actually only about 15 minutes away and gave us good directions. We thanked him and crossed our fingers that the battery still had enough life in it to make it to the parts place, known as the Brick Block.
The gentlemen at the parts place asked if Papa Chip wanted to put it on in their parking lot and if he needed to borrow any tools, which I thought was quite nice. In the end, Papa Chip borrowed a socket set when he didn't have the exact size needed for one of the mounting bolts.
While Papa Chip worked under the hood, I worked on the phone to solve 2 other problems. First, I sent a message a to Chipmunk letting her know that we had a vehicle issue and wouldn't be able to meet her midday as planned and asked her to text back a confirmation that she would just hike on to the late day meet up spot instead. While I waited for her reply, I started calling campgrounds ... it was time to dump the tanks again; ours was full. Often campgrounds will allow you to dump tanks for a small fee (usually $5) even if you don't camp overnight. Since we were in NY, I called a few near the parts store and was told by 4 campgrounds that either they didn't have a dump station (for tents only camping) or that they charged $30 and up to dump a tank, regardless of the fact that ours is only 12-15 gallons. I also called a few in Connecticut and found the same basic responses. Hmmm... I'm going to have to get creative, I thought.
As Papa Chip worked under the hood, I thought who else would be willing to take our ... ummm ... poo. Ah-ha! I called a local septic tank cleaner and explained my situation. The lady on the phone was kind but explained that their "hoses" have connections that might not fit our tank ... and therefore might not be able to transfer the "stuff" from our tank to theirs. Hmm. I asked if they do port a potty cleaning and she confirmed they did. I asked if they had any on site there and she confirmed they did. I said, "If we are unable to find another solution, could we unload ours into your porta potty and then pay to have you pump the porta potty?" She said, "I think that could work but our trucks won't come back to the office until after 4PM and I don't know if there will be a driver willing to stay later to do it." I thanked her for her time and said I'd be back in touch if I didn't find another solution.
We walked into the store together and the gentleman who had been helping us offered to give a jump start. Within a few minutes, the truck roared to life! Yeah! I was so glad to have the truck running and was relieved that it looked like we'd have plenty of time to make it to the meet up spot before Chipmunk came in.
With the truck running, it was time to address the tank dumping issue. I filled Papa Chip in on my fruitless search for a solution and he said, "I think I saw a roadside dumping station when we passed through a small town the other day." I thought he was insane at first ... a roadside dumping station? Then, I must admit, he is usually right about odd stuff like this. So, we retraced our steps and sure enough there was a roadside dumping station in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, there had once been a campground along the roadside that is now closed. The dump station was fully functioning, except there was no potable water fill.
Once that deed was done, we drove toward our late day meet up spot and found that the bridge to it was closed to all but foot traffic. Luckily, the A.T. crossed a road just a half mile before that spot. We parked there and decided to intercept Chipmunk there, which we did. She looked surprised to see us but glad, nonetheless. She joined us in the camper for dinner and some DVD watching. We had picked up some older "3rd Rock from the Sun" seasons at a DVD clearance sale, knowing Chipmunk hadn't seen the show. We thought she'd enjoy it and she did. We all had some belly laughs before we retired to our bunks for the night.
It felt like a day where so much could have gone differently, terribly differently. We lucked out and faced down each challenge with a good mix of luck, teamwork and good old fashioned elbow grease and know how. Kudos to Papa Chip for getting us safely through another vehicle malfunction! FYI, we returned to the Auto Shop to thank Steve for his help and left some muffins for him and his crew. Thanks again, Steve! You can say what you like about Southern hospitality ... I'll take a little Northeastern "Nothing will stand in my way" attitude any day of the week. (And, yes, the "check engine" light went off!)
If you enjoy reading the story of our adventure, and you’d like to send some “Trail Magic” to Chipmunk, click on the “Donate” button at the upper right corner of today’s blog post. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk . She (or we) will try to answer any questions you may have about her hike and this family adventure.
Thanks again for all your support,
Mama Chip, Papa Chip, Chipmunk and her dog, Chocolate Chip
(Tammy, Jay, Neva and Coco)