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Tales of a Hay Hauler: ‘The thump-it blower’

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 12 July 2017

Favorable winds are always desirable. We had two high school graduations to show up for this year. They were three days and 2,000 miles apart. Driving expenses were less than half the cost of airline tickets, so I used that as the excuse to drive.

Airplane seats don’t fit. Airline attitudes annoy me. Being annoyed makes me grouchy and that, for whatever reason, makes my dear wife a less-than-pleasant traveling companion.

We made the trip in my 2006 Dodge diesel mega-cab pickup. It’s been altered so it fits me nicely. The seats are salvage yard-sourced high-back bucket seats – leather and with multiple adjustments. Mine is mounted on top of an air-ride seat suspension originally from a Stinger stack wagon.

It’s the low-profile unit, and the owners of the Stinger opted for a seat with more vertical movement. I offered to install an air suspension under the passenger seat, and my favorite passenger forbade me to do it – something about preferring a seat that never acts like it’s going on a tour by itself.

Other choices were my 1979 Mazda RX-7, but it’s down until I install a new clutch slave cylinder. The 1993 Geo Tracker was vetoed by my intended travel partner – something about rough ride and lack of air conditioning. The other choice was my 2006 Lincoln Town Car. When I get my seat adjusted for a long drive and I need to look out the side window, it’s actually the window on the rear passenger door I’m looking through.

The cooler won’t fit between the front and rear seats, and the trash bin can’t be reached easily from either front-seat passenger. The size 13 boots interfere with things behind the steering wheel above the gas and brake pedals. Not our best choice for a long adventure.

The favorable winds pushed us all the way from central Washington state to Laramie, Wyoming, before stopping for fuel. Shortly after getting the pickup five years ago, I put a 32-gallon reserve fuel tank in the bed. Doing the math when I fueled up, the old Dodge was getting just shy of 22 miles per gallon.

Fuel at Laramie was $2.30 per gallon, 40 cents less than most fuel between home and there. We made sure to fill up at Laramie again on the way back. When I fueled up back home, the truck had made an honest 20.23 miles per gallon for the whole trip.

Early on in the trip, the heater/air conditioner blower changed to the “thump-it” variety. First occasionally, and then most of the time, it had to be given a sharp rap with a 10-inch adjustable wrench to get it to start.

When we came through Lincoln, Nebraska, trying to make time to get to the second event (the first graduation was by Nashville, Tennessee, and the second at Caldwell, Idaho), the blower was declining to start even with multiple thumps.

We spied a parts house, and $84 and 20 minutes later all was well. I’m one of those guys who won’t cross the street without a toolbox in the vehicle. The Dodge has 294,000 miles on it, and this was the second blower, so I was experienced at making the change.

From Washington to Tennessee was a comparably relaxed drive, but from Tennessee to Idaho was serious, steady driving. I had a passing thought that in addition to using the wrench to thump the blower, perhaps my wife would have to use something to thump the driver to keep me going.

That thought brings to mind a Facebook discussion I was party to. A friend in Yuba City, California, commented she had done something to her knee and was hopeful the doctor wouldn’t find a major problem. I suggested if she needed a cane to get a good, sturdy oak stock cane: “That way, if you need to swat someone with it, it won’t shatter.”

Her husband replied, “No more good ideas, Brad Nelson.”

It’s a big country. We opted to drive through southeastern Idaho and cross into Wyoming on the two-lane highway rather than taking the freeway south into Utah then back north into Wyoming. My maps app said the trip time was within a five-minute difference either way.

As we drove through Lava Hot Springs, Grace and Soda Springs, near the Idaho-Wyoming border, I knew that many of my dad’s family had settled there.

I noted the homes scattered about the hillsides and meadows – a remnant of the time 40 acres would support a family. The area was settled when horses and mules were the power units on the farms. All that was wanted when this area was settled was a place those settlers could live in peace and have enough to raise their families.

As we crossed a big part of the country, dealing with and visiting with people along the way, I think one thing has not changed. I think most people today only want a place where they can live in peace and have enough to raise their families.  end mark