Judy Cavallo and I returned on Oct 26 from our 17 day, 4000 mile Covid Cabin Fever Escape Tour that went as far East (and South) as Big Bend National Park in TX and North to Bandelier National Monument in NM.

We left San Marcos on Friday, October 9 when the big “event” of our trip occurred. There was good news and bad news. The bad was that it happened at all. The good news was that it happened 20 miles from Tucson and not 100 miles from Nowheresville.

It had been a hot day driving across I8 with temperatures in the upper 90’s. The sun was low in the sky, when the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree with indicator lights. The A/C immediately cut out. The good news was that Judy was able to find a repair shop that serviced Sprinter Vans that was still open and would be opened Saturday morning. Also good news was that there was a hotel within a short walk.

When we took the off-ramp, I noticed how the 8000 lbs I was driving was not slowing down as I expected - no power brakes. We stopped safely and I tried turning right and discovered that the power steering as also gone. I was getting a great upper body workout. On our way to the hotel next to the dealer I made a wrong turn and had to turn around in a narrow street. The 3 point turn became more like a 17 point turn.

We find the hotel, and while it wasn’t a dump, it wasn’t a place we would have chosen. The lobby is locked, Judy rings the bell and it took almost 10 minutes before anyone shows up to open the door. I have no idea if I will be able to start the van in the morning. The only places to eat in walking distance are an Arby’s and MickeyD’s on the other side of a busy 4 lane road with no traffic lights in sight.

In the morning, the van starts and I drop it off at the repair shop when they open at 8. Good news is that they specialize in repairing Sprinter vans. There are about 15 Amazon vans parked there to be serviced. At 10:30 or so we get the bad news. The closest place that has the part we need is in TX and won’t get to Tucson until Monday. (For the mechanically inquisitive: A bearing in a guide pulley froze, causing the serpentine belt to tear and wrap around the harmonic balancer which also took out the fan clutch belt.) They hope it will be fixed by end of day Monday or maybe not until Tuesday. It is still in the upper 90’s in Tucson.

So, we say, we have a truckload of lemons, let's make some lemonade. We’ll rent a car and tour Tucson. Not so fast. I go to various travel websites and they all tell me that there are NO CARS AVAILABLE. What??? Hotels are empty, but there are no cars??? What’s going on? We envision being stuck there, having to cross the busy road for food for 3 or 4 days, stuck in a crummy hotel.

We call an Uber to take us a car rental place hoping to find something the web search couldn’t find. Our very friendly driver took us to many places (without cars) before I try again on my phone and find a car became available at Alamo at the airport. (I was almost ready to rent a U-Haul truck.) We find a better hotel. So, we had 3 unplanned days in Tucson where it was HOT. But it was a dry heat.

Most miles in one day - 476

Average miles per day - 222

Cheapest diesel fuel - $1.77/gal

Local price of diesel fuel - $3.69

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