July, 2019 – St. Cloud, Minnesota

We decided to travel north to St. Cloud along state and US highways instead of taking the Interstates through Minneapolis to St. Cloud in order to avoid the heavy traffic and possible delays.  The 2.5 hour trip was going fine until about 30 miles south of St. Cloud.  The truck suddenly refused to go above 2500 rpm, which meant pulling the RV up the small hills dropped our speeds to about 40 mph.  It did not give us a “Check Engine” notice and seemed to be running fine otherwise, except a serious loss of power.  We continued to limp our way into St. Cloud until we got within 10 miles of our destination, St. Cloud Campgrounds.  The truck suddenly starting bucking, so we pulled into an empty parking lot at a TravelLodge, just north of I-49.  Our biggest fear about pulling an RV had occurred.  Thankfully, we were able to pull off the road into a parking lot so we were not stuck on the side of the road.  Kal called Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance to get some help.  After about 45 minutes they were able to find us a place that could look at the truck.  We also found out a limitation with this Roadside Assistance, which is designed specifically for RVs.  Since the RV was not in danger along the road, they would not pay for a tow.  The most they would do was to contact the TravelLodge to make sure it was alright to leave the RV in the parking lot while we dealt with the truck.  Since we pulled the RV out of the way in the back of the parking lot, they had no problem with leaving the RV where it was.  Since the truck was still running and the repair shop was less than 5 miles away, we did not think we needed a tow.  So we unhooked the RV and drove the truck to Miller GMC dealership in St. Cloud.  The truck ran fine the whole way there, although we did not push the rpms to see if we still had a problem.  Once we found the dealership, they told us they could look at the truck, but it would be in the morning before they could get to it.  However, they did have a loaner available, so we left the truck and took off to deal with the RV.  We drove the loaner to the campground to see if they knew anyone that could tow the RV for us.  They suggested an RV dealership that we had just passed with the rig south of Interstate 49.  So I called them to see if they could help.  They checked around and called me back to say they could not assist us, but recommended a towing service that would be able to.  They said to call “Andy.”  At first I figured this was a buddy of theirs and asked them “Andy who?”  Once I found out it was Andy’s Towing Service, I felt a lot better.  I called them up and 30 minutes later a pickup truck showed up with a goose neck.  It was a smaller truck then our own, but should be able to do the job.  He hooked up the RV and pulled out to the campground, which he was well familiar with since he lived there himself.  He got us into our pull-through site with no problem and we quickly got hooked up before driving back into town for dinner.  It is a good thing that we normally get to our next stop by 1-2 in the afternoon, as they gave us enough time to deal with the situation.

Campsite

On Tuesday, we waited around in the campground to hear back from Miller GMC.  I did get some work done on making reservations so we are booked through Labor Day.  They called early in the afternoon with the news that they could find nothing wrong.  There were no codes recorded for the past 3 months and the truck ran fine when they test drove it multiple times.  We were certainly not happy, however, what else could we do but go pick it up?  I suspected it had to do with the exhaust filter, which had given us problems in the past that were very similar.  In addition, the message that it was cleaning the exhaust filter just before we pulled into the TravelLodge seemed to support this theory.  They said the same message came up while they were test driving and it had finished the routine.  I asked them to manually tell the truck to clean the filter just to make sure and they said it would not do it since it had just completed the routine.  So we returned the loaner and got our truck and got a big surprise.  They did not charge us anything for the loaner or all the time they spent trying to find the problem.  WOW!!  It generally costs at least $75 to just get them to hook up the computer to diagnose a Check Engine code.  In any case, we had the truck back, although neither one of us trusted it.

Partly to check out the truck we left on Wednesday for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge about 40 miles away.  We stopped first at their small Visitor Center at the refuge to get information about hiking trails and the driving tour.  The volunteer asked me if the flies were bad outside, but I had not noticed anything on the short walk into the building.  However, she recommended not taking either of the hiking trails near the Visitor Center since they had been reported to be very “buggy.”  Since there were a couple of short trails along the driving tour that would add to about 2 miles, we decided to take her advice and drove over to the driving tour.  This tour is a 7 mile loop road through an example of each of the habitats to be found on the refuge.  The location of the refuge is right along the border between the prairie of western Minnesota and the deep woods of northern Minnesota.  Therefore, it has prairie grasslands, oak savannas, and mixed hardwood forests in the uplands.  The lowlands ranges from sedge marshes to deep water lakes and all can be seen from the vehicle.  There is a short walk through an oak savanna at the beginning of the drive and we found out what they meant by “buggy”.  They were not too bad on the short walk through the oak grove, but our next stop which was a 0.4 mile hike through a prairie to a sedge marsh was a different story.  What I would call deer flies were relentless.  The bug spray did not seem to bother them a bit and they would bite if allowed to land for any length of time!   They drove us both crazy on this short walk.  We continued the drive around to a series of deep water marshes where we saw over 50 trumpeter swans, numerous cormorants, and Canadian geese.  By this time a breeze had come up and the flies were not a problem.  However, when we attempted the third hike through the mixed hardwoods, where the wind was blocked, soon descended into another deer fly banquet!  So ended our time at the wildlife refuge and we headed back to the campground for a late lunch.  However, on the way back, the truck acted up again, still with no Check Engine codes.  We were again limited to 2500 rpms which meant it was a slow trip the 10 miles back to Miller GMC.  This time we did not turn off the engine until they got it hooked up to their computer.  This time there was a code that indicated it was high pressure on the fuel pump.  Obviously it was intermittent and they could not get it to do it again.  They went to do a test drive while we grabbed our lunch and ate it in their nice air-conditioned waiting room.  If the pressure was too low, there would have been multiple things causing it.  However, being too high meant one of two things.  Either the sensor was malfunctioning or the high pressure valve.  Their recommendation would be to replace the sensor and drive it for a few days to see if this fixed the problem.  This would cost only a few hundred dollars and take about an hour.  However, we did not have a few days and on Monday we would be heading north into the backwoods of Minnesota.  However, to replace the valve meant the entire engine and car body had to be lifted off the chassis to access it.  This would cost over $1700.  We felt we had no choice and since we have saved the money to cover these expenses we told them to go for it.  So we made plans to return first thing in the morning and they assured us they could complete the work by Friday.

First thing Thursday morning was back to Miller GMC to drop the truck off again.  They gave us another loaner so it was soon back to the campsite to wait for their phone call.  I spent the afternoon working on getting caught up with this blog, however, the phone signal was not strong enough to upload images.  This greatly concerned me since I did not expect it to be any better as we continued on north.

Friday was also spent working on this blog while we awaited Miller GMC to give us a call.  By 1:30 I was getting concerned since we needed to know if we needed to extend our stay in St. Cloud.  I called them and found out they had completed the work and were out test driving the truck.  I had asked them if there was anything else that ought to be done since we had were going to pay for all the labor anyway.  They took me up on this idea and went ahead and replaced the entire high pressure fuel pump instead of just the valve.  They also found a fault generated when they test drove the truck checking the towing systems.  It seemed the sensor on the RV braking system would occasionally throw a fault on the RV brake system.  So we got this sensor replaced as well, especially since we had heard the fault system beep every once in a while when we are towing.  Hopefully this will fix this problem.  So by mid afternoon we picked up the truck costing just under $2500 in total.  It was too late to drive it much so we waited until Saturday.

Our plans for Saturday was to drive the truck primarily to see if any problems popped up.  So we decided to drive just over an hour north to Grand Casino on Mille Lacs.  We had a good time at the casino and managed to keep our losses low and then it was back to the campgrounds.  The truck drove great with no problems, so we hope the problem has been fixed without causing any additional issues.

We spent Sunday in the campground and I worked on the blog while Kal went and did laundry before we left on Monday.

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