It’s been a tradition up here for years. The first Saturday in May is the official start of the gardening season. It’s also the biggest day for us garden groupies here in the Bellfountain area. We gather together like bees on a nectar-rich flower, or in this case, a big red dually, and we head on the Grand Tour. Generally, we start with the Benton County Master Gardeners sale at the fairgrounds in Corvallis, make a giant loop around the Willamette Valley, and when both the dually and the group are out of gas (diesel, for the truck), we are usually back at the ranch to unload our loot. We hit every street corner/parking lot/driveway/nursery sale from Corvallis to Lebanon, Sweet Home to Coburg, with a lunch/breakfast stop thrown in somewhere. The 8’ bed of the dually is generally packed to the bedrails, and there have been times that the backseat, seat and floor, are crammed as well. But this trip, we had a full truck of 6 eager gardeners, so the bed would be the only cargo space in play.
At the last minute, 3 of our pals had to bow out, leaving my gardening buddies Jan and Ro strapping into Really Big Red on a fabulous spring morning in the Northwest. It struck me as a bit odd that it was rather grumpy to start this morning, but I remembered that we had forgotten to plug it in to the trickle charger as we normally do after driving it. Which we had, the previous day. No matter. It did start, and we were off. We headed towards the fairgrounds, full of excitement of the hunt for green treasures with which to fill the truck to the brim. Jan as always was navigator; she had our route all planned out, a handful of flyers fluttering all over the front seat – and her phone, sitting on my counter at home. No matter, I had mine, so if we needed some nav help, we could still get it.
Halfway up Bellfountain Road, with everyone still chattering away, I heard a click, and every gauge, display and control in the truck went dead. No one else had noticed, so when there was a lull in the conversation, I mentioned that there might be a bit of a problem. Only the engine was still operating; no power windows, locks, lights, radio or gauges functioned. The mood went from jovial to somber. We mulled the possibility of pulling over to see if we could shut the truck off and restart it, but being in a marginal at best cell service area with little traffic, that didn’t seem to be the best option. We could turn around, head back to the ranch, and Jan could go borrow her son’s Excursion, but by then, all the good stuff at the Master Gardener’s sale would be long gone.
So, we bravely continued onward to the fairgrounds, hoping for the best, knowing that we might not make it. That’s just what we do.
We made it to the fairgrounds. I strategically placed the dually so that no one could park us in, just in case we needed access for a towtruck. I looked at my pals, and said “Okay, I’m shutting her down.” I turned the key off, waited a moment, and tried it.
Nothing. Not even a click. We were dead in the parking lot.
Jan’s hubby was headed to Junction City, mine to a gun show in Albany. Ro said it was probably the alternator, and I agreed that was one good choice. But I was also remembering how much of a problem the mice are in that garage. They had already destroyed the HVAC system by noshing on the vacuum lines. I suspected they may have found just the right, tasty bit of wiring to follow up with. Either way, we had little to no juice left in the batteries. I called Wilson Motors in Corvallis, our local Ford dealer, and talked to Shannon since our regular service advisor and friend, Jeff, was off on Saturdays. He said if we could get it there before noon, they might be able to at least diagnose the problem. I started making phone calls.
I told Jan and Ro to go ahead and get in line, scribbled my plant needs on a piece of paper, and they headed towards the entrance. Before they left, Jan got her hubby on the phone. Turned out he hadn’t left yet, so he said he’d be headed our way with tools, just in case it was an easy fix. As if that ever happens. I caught mine almost to Albany with the Edge, and he turned around and headed our way as well.
Jan’s hubby arrived first, followed closely by mine. They both agreed it was likely the alternator, as the batteries were slowly coming back to life, and it would at least click now. The boys got to looking as to whether or not they could tear the old alternator out and replace it, but that wasn’t looking like a good option. Meanwhile, Jan and Ro came back with the first load of plants. We put our heads together to figure out a plan. It didn’t take long. The boys would stay, charge up the batteries as much as they could, then haul butt the few miles to Wilson before it died again. Then, they would take Big Black, Jan’s hubby’s truck, to the gun show in Albany. Us girls would continue on a much abbreviated tour with the Edge. And, so we did.
The Edge has a lot of room. The nice thing is the 60/40 seats in the rear. Ro got the jump seat, leaving us more flat, usable space to cram flats onto. And, we needed every micrometer of space. Since we were abbreviating the tour, we had to be much more selective on what we got, and that also meant that when we hit the big rhododendron grower’s sale in North Corvallis, I couldn’t get any of the massive plants that I usually got, the ones that required a tractor to get in and out of the truck. Which probably made hubby pretty darn happy, in retrospect.
The result was that we didn’t spend nearly as much money, but we still got a lot of great stuff for not a lot of dough. Oh, except for that stop at the Mennonite bakery on Peoria Road just north of Harrisburg. Yeah, we got some dough there. Always worth the trip.
Egge Nursery was our last stop. By then, we were pretty well done anyway. The car was at max capacity, and we were running on fumes. As always, we had a great time together, and enjoyed talking with fellow garden enthusiasts. After the long, wet and snowy winter, we Northwesterners were ready for flowers, and gardens, and all that goes with those things. Right now, it’s alternating pouring rain and cold with a few, brief sunbreaks. My newly planted tomatoes and peppers are under the mini greenhouse, and the big greenhouse is shut up tight. I’ve been putting some cool baskets together, chomping at the bit to get things in the pots. I jumped the gun a bit, did two hanging baskets, just to see, of course. It’s still a bit cold in the mornings – been in the 30’s off and on for the past week – but so far, things are doing okay. I ate my first snowpea yesterday, and got the corn planted. The cole crops are in the ground, and the strawberries are loaded with flowers. The lilacs are perfuming the air, as is my beloved ‘Brandywine’ crabapple. We had a swarm of Carniolian bees hanging out by the blackberry vines yesterday, but I didn’t have a box set up, so they took off. I’m going to put a box out and see if I get lucky. You can never have too many bees, you know. Especially if you have a garden.
And then, there are the days that look like this.
Up here, this time of year, we cherish these days. We were on the far side of the south pasture, stripping out the bottom electric wire. It was just a pain at times, because it was too low and carried a huge weed load if we didn’t spray the fencelines religiously. It had been so wet this spring that spraying fencelines wasn’t really a viable option. And honestly, we didn’t need a wire that low. So hubby decided to take the ground wire and turn it into the second hot wire. Thus, we removed (and still have a fair bit left to go) miles of wire and insulators. In the middle of the next to last leg of completing the south pasture, I stopped to take in the view.
As for the dually, well, it did turn out to be the alternator. Since it was up there anyway, and we have an upcoming trip to Idaho, we had them do an inspection/service as well as finally replace that leaky rear pinion seal they nag us about every time it’s up there for service. It ended up thusly:
Repairs and service for dually - $700
NOT having this happen, in the middle of nowhere on Highway 20, with 5 dogs and no cell service – absolutely priceless.