How to have a good time at the auto repair shop, plus rvsue’s culinary magic

There’s just one problem with our new leash law.

Putting on of the black suits signals the crew it’s walk time.  I want Bridget and Spike to get their business done pronto and come back inside so I can fix my coffee.  I have to admit it is a peaceful start of the day, though, wandering around the palo verde, ironwood trees, saguaros, and flowering creosote bushes as the first streams of sunlight beam out from beyond Black Mountain.  Funny.  In the afternoons I’m anxious to move on, but on mornings like this I don’t want to leave.

A little after eight the desert stillness is swept away by the drone of ATVs.

I look out the door and across the sloping desert.  From my house on a hill the red vehicles look like big, racing ladybugs as they zip down the main road, triangular flags fluttering aloft.  A dark pick-up follows with what looks like white plastic drums, possibly containing water?  I wonder if it’s the border patrol on a mission.  A border patrol truck often goes by pulling a trailer-load of ATVs.  I remember Rick saying the ATVs are a way for the agents to pass the time when boredom is about to drive them crazy.

It’s surprising how quickly the cold desert night warms into a sunny, comfortable morning.

Bridget is a baby.

I putter around the campsite and straighten up the BLT.  Every time I step out the door the hordes of mourning doves take flight.  It looks like a Hitchcock movie. 

I experiment with my camera’s timer.  I figure out how to set its delay function.  I place the camera on the BLT’s belly-band, grab Bridget, step back, and presto!  All in ten seconds!

The PTV’s appointment is for 11:30 this morning.

Bridget: "Uh-oh, rvsue is not happy about this."

On the way I stop at the Chamber of Commerce to fill up some water jugs.  I go to lift the handle on the pump and . . .  What’s this?  The handle is locked down.  Oh darn, no more free water. 

Next I stop at the Ajo post office to pick up the rest of my Amazon order.  I get part of the order (a package of brushes). So far, so good.

Then the post lady hands me a card.  It says the rest of the order couldn’t be delivered because of an undeliverable address.  What?  

The packages were sent via United Parcel instead of by U.S. mail to a GENERAL DELIVERY address!  Now how dumb is that?  So now I have to fix this problem and I bet I’ll be charged for shipping.  Well, that’s two strikes

Off to NAPA Auto Repair. 

I hope it’s not strike three.

Other blogs show boring historical landmarks and natural wonders.

After discussing the PTV’s problem with the repair guy, I decide I don’t want to sit on the “waiting bench” inside the store.

This photo shows what the inside of a NAPA store looks like.

The tree that grows cotton!

The crew and I walk along the roadway.  It’s lined with yellow brittlebushes and an interesting tree with cottony blooms.

Um . . . another pic of the cotton tree!


The road out of Ajo . . . Hwy 85 north to Gila Bend

The brittlebushes are in bloom all over the desert and in the town of Ajo. They look pretty growing along the roads and in people’s yards.

Not what one would expect to see next to an auto parts and repair shop!

The crew and I turn back toward the NAPA store and notice a mural at the rear of the building where U-Haul operates.

I love outdoor murals.

The repair guy presents the PTV’s diagnosis. 

Bridget: "Aren't the colors lovely!"

The oil pressure is fine.  Since the gauge is “pegged,” the problem is probably the “cluster.”  It’s where all the gauges are. 

“We could pull the housing and replace it, but that would mean waiting for us to have the odometer reading notarized and it’ll cost you around $130 . . . These things go bad all the time on Chevys around the year yours is.” 

“Just so I can read the oil pressure gauge.”  I’m thinking out loud.

The repair guy continues. 

“It’s annoying to see that gauge all the way up.  If it’s really gonna bother you, we can replace the cluster.  That’s a lot of money to not be annoyed but we’ll be happy to do it if that’s what you want.”

There's somethiing about a dirt lane . . .

“What if the oil pressure really is high?”  I ask.

“Well, if that were to happen, the check-engine light would come on.  Same if it’s too low.”

To make a long story short, whether it’s the sending unit or the dash gauge display unit, I decide to leave it be. 

“So I can expect the other gauges to conk out at some point, too?”  

At first a tentative hello . . .

He smiles, shrugs, and replies, “Probably.”

The crew and I go up to the counter to pay the $32.50 labor charge. 

Bridget hides between the counter and my legs.  

Spike, however, wants to mee the NAPA dog, a shar-pei mix, while I hand over my credit card.  (I haven’t had much luck trying to pay with my out-of-town checks.)

Soon the barriers come down . . .

Turning into Darby Well Road, I realize I’m starving! 

The crew always falls asleep on the Darby Well Road.

I’m glad I made my standard bean dish last night.  It requires great expertise.

Open a big can of pinto or black beans, a smaller can of chopped tomatoes, and a can of kernel corn, and dump it all into a pot.  Add some garlic powder or any other seasoning you happen to have.

Then take the block of green chilies out of the freezer.  Since the chilies are frozen harder than concrete, place the block on the rear bumper of your vehicle or rv.  (Not directly on the bumper, of course.  Put something under it to keep it clean, for heaven’s sake.)  With one hand jab a screwdriver (Phillips or blade will do) into the frozen chilies while holding a hammer in the other.  Whack the screwdriver with all you’ve got.  Throw frozen chunk of chilies into the pot.  Heat and serve!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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67 Responses to How to have a good time at the auto repair shop, plus rvsue’s culinary magic

  1. Rod Ivers says:

    And now you know that your oil pressure isn’t killing things inside your engine… And that is a lot of good peace of mind……..

  2. francy says:

    awesome job on all the pics EXCEPT you forgot to say cheese!

  3. Gaelyn says:

    Damn gauges. Might be easier to add an aftermarket one.

    Nice to see the flowers.

    Like your method for frozen chilies.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I forgot to add an important step to the recipe: “Catch the flying chunk of chilies before it hits the dirt.”

  4. Tia says:

    Forget painting. Sounds like your skills are in carving. Ha Ha.
    Love your hat. Is that the one you got in Quarzite?
    Looks beautiful in the desert today.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Yep. This is the Quartzsite hat. It’s very practical. I wear it all day to give my scalp some protection (skin cancer), it’s ventilated, and the wind has a hard time blowing it off my head.

      Actually this entry is about yesterday. I had it all ready to post but I couldn’t get the photos to load. Today’s weather is beautiful, too.

  5. Geri says:

    Those darned gauges! My problem is a check engine light that won’t turn OFF! I have had it checked in several different repair shops…. the computers they use say my TrailBlazer is fine, the gauge is just stuck and they can’t get it to turn off either! Desert and downtown Ajo look beautiful with Spring!

  6. Shar Pei Mom says:

    Sue…if it’s not important that the chilis be in big chunks for your beans…why not use a cheese grater. A bit safer than the hammer and screwdriver and no catching the pop fly’s! Oh the NAPA Pei is a pretty (handsome) lil bone mouth flower-pei mix. Our youngest Pei would have teased the heck outta Spike…just to get him to chase!!!! How are you fairing with the heat coming on? We are headed back up the mountain to Prescott…still cold up there but the hubby is wanting to get home to get things going before weeding season. We hope you enjoy your next move as much as you have Darby Wells.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It’s not hot enough here to be uncomfortable . . . yet. Shar-pei’s are interesting dogs . . . such tiny ears on such a big guy! I bet your mountain is nice in the summertime.

  7. Jeff says:

    I think I would put an aftermarket oil guage on. I don’t think that I would want to have my motorhome towed everytime the check engine light went on (for fear of no oil pressure).They can come on for a multitude of reasons that aren’t an emergency.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      How are these oil gauges put on? You can read them from the driver’s seat? Someone please explain.

      • Chuck says:

        Hi again!
        The gauge IN the dash is diconnected/bypassed and the oil pressure line is routed to a generic/aftermarket gauge that can be mounted outside of the dash area somewhere you can see it.(usually to the bottom of the dash) You’ll have to come to NM(weather getting much better) for better explanation!!!! The hound herd missing Bridgette and Spike and I know you be missing Ruebens at Groovy Gritz….

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Thanks, Chuck.

          I think Spike is missing the Hound Herd, too. Bridget likes being out in the desert with me with no more dogs to compete for my attention. Spike loves being around canine pals, the more the merrier! I probably won’t be back to the Gritz until next fall. That Reuben is going to taste awfully good by then . . .

    • Chuck says:

      Hi Sue! I agree with Jeff. Surprised the mechanic did not suggest it. They disconnect the
      gauge and put a generic oil pressure gauge under dash ( like on old hot rods) . LMAO at your method of chile disection!!!! Cheese grater sounds way safer!!!!!!

  8. Pauline says:

    Love the pictures!!! and love your hat!!!! I have used your technique of breaking up frozen foods many times in my kitchen sink. A few weeks ago I made something I hadn’t had in YEARS. Creamed tuna and green peas on biscuits. It was so good!!!! Jerold requested it for tonight. Glad to see the flowers in the desert.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Is that one of Mother’s recipes? It sounds familiar. Glad to hear Jerold is getting the meals he requests.

      • Pauline says:

        I found it on line and the minute I tasted it I thought…Yep…just like Mother used to make. Funny but it feels like comfort food. Believe me, Jerold is not refusing to eat anything. He is glad I am finally able to get up and feel like cooking!!! LOL

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I wonder if you could make it with canned chicken. It sounds like a good recipe for boondockers. Usually when I run out of groceries, some of the last items I have are tuna fish and peas! I can guess how to make it (or if it’s not too long, maybe you could type it here?) If you do, start a new comment so you’ll have room.

  9. Mick says:

    I had a engine temperature gauge that would go full high on occasion. I fixed it by unplugging the engine computer connector, spraying it with contact cleaner and re-plugging. It has been working for five years now. Maybe you should get a second opinion. Thanks for the Ajo picture tour.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Mick, and thanks for the suggestion. I think I’ll look into that the next time I’m around a repair shop. This NAPA place is practically the only game in town, other than backyard mechanics I don’t know. I’m assuming the engine computer connector can be accessed without ripping everything apart.

  10. Elizabeth in NC says:

    You are a very brave woman, dealing with all these vehicle issues, on top of living out there in the desert!!

  11. Ed says:

    …while I hand over my credit card. (Out-of-town checks are not welcome in Ajo.)

    That is not true for everyplace in Ajo. when I first checked into Ajo Heights RV Park I tried to pay with a credit card and they would accept only cash or checks. Didn’t have any checks with me (just changed banks) so I needed to get cash from an ATM.

    Made my next two payments with the out-of-town checks with no problems.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Good to know, Ed. When I’ve tried to write a check (I admit, not many places) it’s been turned down. Maybe it’s the Georgia address on them? Olsen’s took a check one time but the next time I was told they’d rather have a credit card. I shouldn’t make blanket statements on my blog. They always come back and bite me. (I changed the wording to be fair to the great town of Ajo!)

  12. Hi Sue and Pups. I agree with you. Hardly ever will your oil pressure gauge read to low. Just keep your oil checked. If it gets to low its probably the oil pump. Your”re looking good. Enjoyed the post…Joe

  13. Page says:

    My dear Hub is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. He’s been wondering what of tools he’ll need to keep, other than his diagnostic computers, when we hit the road so that he can offer his expertise to fellow travelers when they are in distress. He knows his stuff, he’s honest, and he’s a really nice guy. We figure it will be a way to earn some income when we become nomadic. That way, nice folks like you won’t have to worry about the quality of the local mechanics if we’re b-d’ed nearby.

  14. Maribeth says:

    I surely enjoyed spending the day with you. Your writing style makes it seem like I was right there with you, and after you posted the recipe, I was hungry right beside you. I better go home and take some green chili out of the freezer, I don’t know where my screwdriver is – LOL

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      And sometimes it seems like you — and all my blog readers — are along with me. When I see something of interest, like the mural, I think, oh I’ve got to take a photo for the blog. So I’m thinking of you during the day!

  15. Gary says:

    I think the word NAPA may have used was gauge ‘cluster’ or assembly. All all gauges must be in one piece without the ability to replace just one or another. Which seems to include the odometer.

    Personally I would want to know what my oil pressure was. So I would have someone install a separate gauge by drilling a hole in the dash or hanging one underneath the dash. Do a web search for “oil pressure gauge” and you’ll find many different styles. Some are on a little stand that is screwed to the top of the dash etc.. And a separate gauge would be much less than a new cluster and the odometer is not disturbed in any way. NAPA can give you the name of an honest shop.

    I had a transmission oil temp gauge installed in my motor home by drilling a hole for it in the dash. I think it cost like $200 for the gauge and installation.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Gary,

      Yeah, I think he did use the word cluster! I’m going to edit this post (when my computer is having a good day) and put that word in so I’ll sound like I know how to talk “automotive.”

      Excellent suggestions. I’ll look into it, although I’m hoping my gauge and installation would be less than $200. Thanks for explaining all this to me.

  16. Sherry says:

    Oh SIGH……….don’t you just hate to have to deal with automotive or van or motor home repairs?
    My car has a fuel line leak. And no one even at the dealership can figure out which part it needs much less get it and put it on. I have no words of wisdom about gauges you’ll be happy to know.

    Your peaceful start to the day sounds wonderful. Love the hat, the pic of you and Bridget. The ATVs not so much. If they were around very often I’d surely have to move.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Boo-hoo on the fuel line leak. Not fun.

      The ATVs didn’t bother me. I guess when it looks like they’re for a purpose, like the fighter jets that go over, I feel good about them. Plus getting almost 24-hour silence, except for the birds, bees, and breeze, makes a little noise a novelty!

  17. Going to have to try that recipe, sounds good and lots of protein! But will probably forget the chilies… to technical 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Would it be easier to put the bag of frozen chilies in the road and drive over it? I’m trying to help here.

  18. Betty says:

    Thank you for taking us West with you on your blog. Still thinking of you often. Things pretty much the same in “peach” country. CRCT is looming…Smart goals…unreachable to say the least! Lunch time is still the same….nothing but solitude and quiet….right!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Betty!

      I was thinking of you last night, wondering when I would hear from you again . . . and here you are! February was always the toughest month for me when teaching. It seemed like the longest month of the year. I hope it is going well for you and the team. Keep your eye on Easter. “Smart goals” . . . oh I remember those well . . . The smartest goal I had was to retire! LOL Say hi to the rest of the lunchtime gang for me.

  19. Carla says:

    Sue, Some Chevy/GMC vehicles have a known issue with the stepper motors on the back of the gauges. Some states forced GM to recall vehicles and replace the cluster in the dash. Other states such as Texas, did not require a recall because Texas doesn’t check gauges as part of the inspection- they only look at the Check Engine & Brake lights – how do I know? Yep you guessed it, I have the problem. I even wrote the Texas Attorney General but no luck there.

    I can’t begin to tell you how my heart dropped when I realized one day I was speeding – and I mean speeding – on a trip – Thank goodness I didn’t get a ticket nor did I cause a wreck. Once it started, it went crazy. Sometimes the speedometer would show 100 mph when I was doing 20 in a school zone!

    I bought a kit of replacement stepper motors for about $30 on Ebay. I helped my brother replace the stepper motor on the speedometer and we thought we’d wait on the other guages – BIG MISTAKE. We had to take out the entire dash and should have replaced the others. But that was about 2 years ago. Now the oil and gas gauges are acting up. I use the mileage meter to determine when to buy gas right now.

    Do a search on stepper motors and add the year and model of your PTV. Maybe yours is one that has been recalled. I haven’t looked in a while, but I think it was between 5 and 10 states that had recalls.

    Glad to know that was all it was. And that you got some good advice from the repair place. My dealer wants $1500 to replace the console every time I go in to get the oil changed. LOL. You think they would learn by now that I know how to say NO. Glad I researched it first.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Carla,

      Oooh. Not what I want to hear. Thank you for taking the time to tell me all about this issue. I’ll check the recall situation. Your experience with the speedometer is scary. Going around these long stretches of desert without knowing how much fuel is in the tank would not be a good idea. Thanks again for writing.

  20. Al from The Bayfield Bunch says:

    Sat in that very same Napa store for a few hours back in the early Spring of 07 getting a wheel bearing replaced in our Chevy Sierra pick-up truck we had at the time. I think I might have put a picture of the Napa store in my blog at the time as well:))

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ah, yes, sweet memories of the Ajo NAPA store . . . so dear to the heart.

      I meant to write a comment on your blog about Pheebs and Motormouse lying asleep on their backs with their legs akimbo. An Arizona magazine was right beside Motor. It looked like she had been reading about Arizona destinations until she nodded off. What a precious photo!

  21. Pam Perry says:

    Oh how I love your self portrait of yourself and your girl. Another thing I love are any shots with the saguaro in them. I did get to see them once in person. Would love to see them again. Meanwhile, I can enjoy your photos. ~pam

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m happy you enjoy the photos, Pam. I’ll think of you the next time I’m point the lens at a saguaro.

  22. Pauline says:

    PER REQUEST: Creamed tuna
    1 tbsp butter……melt in a sauce pan over medium heat
    ADD 1tbsp flour….stir until flour is wet
    ADD 1 cup milk…..stir constantly until thickened
    ADD 1 small can tuna, drained ( I double this recipe and use the large can of tuna)
    ADD 1 can of green peas. (I use a whole can for the double recipe. Like to add 1 can of corn also)
    Salt and Pepper to taste.

    I serve this over biscuits if I have them or toast.

    I see no reason why you couldn’t use chicken instead of tuna…also could change up the veggies to what you like.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi again, Pauline . .

      I figured all you had to do was make a paste and then add the tuna and peas. Thanks for typing this up, appreciate the helpful tips and all. This sounds yucky, but my memory is coming back from when Mother used to make it and it was good!

  23. Abel Perez says:

    I own a 2004 Chevy 2500 HD truck and i remember a few years back i was informed by GM that there was a problem with the cluster and since it was under warranty they would replace it at no charge. I kept putting it off and when i got around to replacing it, it was like 10k miles past the warranty. We agreed that I would pay the first $100 and they would cover the rest. I made an appt with a Chevy dealer and they installed within an hour at no charge. They refused to charge me any money. You might want to check on the warranty on your vechicle.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, Abel, for telling us about this. I’ll check the warranty but I doubt it will do me any good as the PTV has over 100,000 miles on it.

  24. Hazel says:

    63 comments! You’re getting to be quite the Casita rock star, Sue! LOL

    Tomorrow I will make a cup of tea and sit down to enjoy this post and comments. For now, I have to let you know that we just returned from picking up the ‘new to us’ Casita! Yay! Her name is WREN (not Megg). Carolina Wrens were singing their little hearts out the whole time we were at the people’s house and at the State Park where we overnighted. I even discovered a Wren in the bathroom at the park! All those signs let me know that we had a WREN. 😉

    So now we have to sell our Airstream, ROSIE, as well as downsize and move into WREN. Check out ROSIE on the Tiny House Blog (a blog you might enjoy about the tiny house movement):
    Even though the task of downsizing is daunting, I’m over the moon about WREN. The 2 nights we spent in her were so cozy and completely comfortable…like being HOME. You must know what I mean, Sue. I have so many questions to ask you about living in a Casita.

    Oh, I forgot to tell you…the first trailer we saw when we pulled into the State Park (which was nearly empty) was none other than a Casita! AND…it was a woman soloing!!! She had been fulltiming for a year. What a coincidence! I am so happy to be part of the Casita family now.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hazel! I’m so glad to see your comment finally appeared. It wouldn’t post because it had a link in it which sent it to a spam folder for my approval. I tried to approve it and it wouldn’t post! Just like I couldn’t get photos to load either.

      I am so happy for you! Congratulations!!!!! I know what you mean about being over the moon about Wren! I was so excited I kissed my Casita at the factory. LOL

      God bless you in your travels and welcome to the Casita family!

  25. Kathy says:

    Hi Sue – I love your blog and would like to read it from the beginning. I am retiring in July and am thinking of doing the same thing you are. I figure if I read from the beginning I can get some pointers. I am sure there is a way to go back and look but not quite sure how to do it. Can tell me how? Thanks Kathy

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Kathy!

      I’m so glad you enjoy my blog. I hope it helps you make decisions about fulltime travel on your own wheels.

      To start at the beginning, click on April and scroll to the bottom of the page. The first post is “A Sixty-something woman … ” It shows a few lines of the post. Then click on the words “show more.” After you read the complete post you can scroll up to the top of the page to find the name of the next post with an arrow (faint print). I think the next one is “Why be a vagabond?” When you finish reading a post, the next one will be at the top with an arrow . . . just click to keep going.

      I hope you get to see this and that it’s helpful.

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