December 31, 2013
by Stephen Jan in Minden, LA
Time: 10 Days
Distance: 2,151 miles
Odometer: 308,438 miles
On one of our now ubiquitous Walmart browsing sessions, I struck up a conversation with an auto center employee about our breakdown. She recommended Roco Tire and Service Center. We were pretty set on Brian, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to visit Roco. Like all people we’ve met so far, Ronny, Richard, and Jennifer at the front desk were exceptionally friendly. I described the situation: the drive from New York to Patagonia, the ambulance breakdown, and the suspected hub/bearing/transmission issue. I openly mentioned the plan to take the car to Brian and they actually confirmed that Brian was a solid choice. However, Ronny did mention that Roco was open both Monday and Tuesday. With Brian on vacation Tuesday and Wednesday, his work included a 5 day price tag. In the end, we decided that the possibility of moving on in 2 days was enough to change our minds. On Monday morning, we called Darryl for the third time asking him to tow the car to the corner of Union and Sheppard, Roco Tire and Service Center.
About an hour after Darryl deliver the ambulance, Bubba came around, jacked up the ambulance, and pulled off the wheels. He tried wedging a screwdriver into the axle to pry it out. Next, he tried chisel and hammer. Finally, he brought out what looked like a mini-jackhammer. Bubba turned to me and shook his head. He explained that the axle is supposed to slide out easily. The damage to the hub and bearings was so severe that the axle was completely locked in. Our best bet was to find a replacement rear end - exactly the nightmare scenario mentioned by Brian that would cost thousands upon thousands.
A couple days ago, a man driving a white Silverado spotted us and Darryl near the ambulance after the police aborted the tow job. Despite the southern drawl and stutter, he clearly made his die-hard Republican stance known by joking that he would not hold my supporting Obama against me. Mind you, I never made any mention about my political leanings. But when people around here hear about our project, they tend to assume we’re hippies. I guess the reasoning goes: ambulance donation/adventure implies hippies implies Obama supporter. Anyway, David Peterson seemed like a nice fellow. He told me that he had like 10 salvaged short buses on his lot of the exact same make and model of our ambulance. That sounded like salesman talk to me, so i dismissed his offer. Now that we actually needed a rear end, he was the only person I could call.
I took the jeep to find David but ended up finding his son working on a pickup truck with an assistant by the name of Casey. His son originally dismissed us, citing that they were unavailable for the holidays. His tone completely changed once I produced the red “David Peterson Contracting” business card. Apparently David owned several businesses and was somewhat of a community business leader. The son guided us to the large Peterson property a couple miles from town center. On that property Mr Peterson kept his bbq smoker, race cars, and open field where he stores construction vehicles and salvaged short buses. David welcomed me with a firm handshake and said he could help us. He instructed Casey to verify the make and model before dragging a short bus out with a bulldozer, handing it upside down, and chopping parts out with a giant buzz saw. It both sounded and looked like a pig slaughter.
The rear end was delivered to Roco by end of day. Dreams of a Mexican New Year had been pretty much dashed, but at the very least we probably wouldn’t need to get drunk and shoot off fireworks in Shrevport. We can do that in Dallas.