Tow vehicle repair and a look at Trout Creek Campground

Thursday, June 29

The Saga of the Serpentine Belt continues!

Alec, the repair guy at GLM Automotive in Superior, Montana, pulls up to our campsite in Quartz Flat Campground at two o’clock, as we prearranged.

Alec tells me the belt has been replaced.  He also tells me that after finishing that job, he turned on the engine and discovered a problem with the water pump.

This does not surprise me.  I had prepared myself for the possibility of additional damage.

We roll up I-90 to his shop on Diamond Match Road.

Here’s the bill, verbatim:

  • Transport vehicle to shop:  $50
  • Found serpentine belt broke.  Removed air box/coolant bottle to replace serpentine belt. Cleaned pulleys and installed belt.  Found water pump bearings bad after vehicle start-up.  R/R belt, fan, shroud, hoses to replace water pump:  $315 (4.5 hrs. @ $70 per hr.)
  • Serpentine belt: $26
  • Water pump kit:  $162
  • Coolant:  $12

$200 for parts plus $365 for labor = $565 total repair cost

I pay the bill and thank Alec.

“Come on outside for a minute,” he says.  “I want to show you something.”

Alec directs my attention to the tire on the back, right side.  My heart sinks because I love my Toyo, ten-ply, all-terrain tires!

“Don’t worry, your tires are fine,” Alec reassures me.  “There’s a bit of wear on this one.  I suggest you have your tires rotated.”

“I have a question for you, Alec.  I don’t like the way the PTV’s back end sags when I hitch up my trailer.  I probably have too much weight on the hitch, but besides that . . .

. . . What can I do to lift up the back end?”

Alec retrieves a box from a shelf and shows me the part from inside.  He explains how this thingy will have the PTV towing level again.

We set up an appointment for the Thursday after the Fourth of July holiday.  The tires will be rotated and the PTV will receive some help holding up her behind.

In spite of the outlay of money, I’m a happy driver!

Whew!  That’s done!  It’s so good to be behind the wheel of the PTV again.

As we turn to board the interstate for home . . .

Uh-oh.  I don’t like the feel of that!

There’s a vibration in the steering!  It’s only noticeable when making a turn.  Since we’re already on the interstate and Alec has probably closed the shop for the day (early closings due to air temperatures pushing toward 100 degrees in the afternoons), I keep going.

Friday, June 30

Reg, Rog and I go back to GLM.  Alec comes out of the shop’s bay to greet me.

“There’s a shudder in the steering,” I announce.

Alec takes the PTV for a test drive.  Upon returning he sprays cleaner on the belt.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll see what the problem is when you come back on Thursday.  You can still drive with it doing that.”

“Okay, that’s fine with me, Alec.  I’ll see ya’ on Thursday.”

Fourth of July weekend:

Independence Day is on a Tuesday this year which makes for a long weekend of celebrations.

The crew and I miss all that.  “Miss” as in “We don’t see or hear it.”  The campground is quiet, like any other weekend.

Oh, well.

~ ~ ~

Trout Creek sparkles as it makes its way through Lolo National Forest.

Fine-cut crystal in motion.  A refreshing sight on a hot day!

Alec had suggested we explore Trout Creek.

Taking Diamond Match Road from Superior, we pass Alec’s shop.  After a few miles the pavement ends and we’re on Forest Road 250, a dirt, two-lane road that climbs alongside the descending Trout Creek.

FR 250 goes all the way to Hoodoo Pass (5,980 ft.) in the Bitterroot Mountains to take one over into Idaho.

One only has to drive about two miles on the dirt road to reach a small, day-use area and Trout Creek Campground, the latter having tent sites and a few sites suitable for short RVs, truck campers, vans, and the like.

Reggie and Roger perk up when they realize we’ve reached our destination!

These are the usual positions of the crew when we’re on an outing — Reg in his bed by me and Roger with his paws on the armrest, watching the scenery go by.

~ ~ ~

The campground is shaded predominantly by towering Ponderosa pines, ubiquitous to this area.  (At the entrance, I scan the bulletin board for the usual fee for camping, but it isn’t posted.)

I park the PTV at the day use parking lot.

“Okay, my little gremlins.  You can get out now.”

We walk the campground road.

The sites are well-spaced, linked by a road that doesn’t look like it’s in a campground.

~ ~ ~

Eating area separate from where one parks. Trout Creek is beyond the picnic table, down a steep bank.  Music for your dining pleasure.

~ ~ ~

Note:  These campsite photos were taken at a later date, after the holiday campers left.

~ ~ ~

The crew and I return to the day use area.

We follow a short trail through the woods.

The coolness of deep shade is appreciated.  We can hear Trout Creek ahead of us.

~ ~ ~

“We’d better not go down there, guys.  Too risky.”  

Especially the way the excited Roger-Dodger pulls on the leash!

The creek cuts along the steep bank and the current is powerful.

~ ~ ~

We follow the trail to another opening at the creek.  

“Eventually I’ll find us a place where we can go into the water.  Apparently there isn’t safe access in this section of the creek.”

Obviously Rog and Reg are more interested in smells anyway!

~ ~ ~

“You probably would enjoy a drink of water right now.”

Glimmers of light descend through the boughs, lighting the leaves. The creek glistens.

After a drink at the PTV, we ride further up the forest road and find boondocks and places to wade.

Coming up . . . .

The Perfect Tow Vehicle has her butt lifted and the crew and I play in Trout Creek!



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Serpentine Belt
Spring Step Women’s Roxy Sandal
500 lbs. Capacity Multi-Use Van Rack
Plantar Fasciitis Socks with Arch Support
Everlasting Treat Wheeler Large Dog Toy
Spiral Slicer – Zucchini Spaghetti Pasta Maker



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54 Responses to Tow vehicle repair and a look at Trout Creek Campground

  1. Lauri says:

    You have inspired me to get a trailer stead of a class b or c!!!! I and my three little dogs are ready!!! Thanks!!!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome . . . .Go for it, Lauri! I don’t know if you’re a “new” Lauri here. If so, welcome to Blogorinoland.


      • Lauri says:

        I believe I’m an *ahem* older (57) Lauri … been here about a year! You truly are an influence….I keep referring to you as I discuss pros & cons of the different living configurations. The question is not if, but what! Again thanks bunches for all your…hmmm…sharing…stories…adventures…advice…inspiration…

  2. Boots says:

    Beautiful Country, but then, I’m smitten with the area

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Boots! I can understand you being “smitten.” 🙂


      And my air card is about out of charge. . . .

  3. Deena in Phoenix says:

    Sue, I really like the photos of the creek, miss that living here in Phx; spent some of my childhood in Newburgh and Camillus, NY; we spent many a day traveling the woods for creeks and ponds…ah, memories…glad Alec checked the PTV over and you are getting further items done…I love how the Boys ears are different…and their positions for riding are adorable…

    Take Care, Sue and Crew…Deena

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ha! I used to live in Newburgh, NY, for a short while!


      • Deena in Phoenix says:

        Dad was stationed at Stewart AFB, Newburgh, NY…there about two years then off to Hancock AFB in Syracuse (living in Camillus, NY) then he went to Thailand and the Family (Mom and 10 Kids) moved to Nantucket Island, MA (Dad’s childhood home)…I know we lived on Long Island when I was 1-3 yrs then off to Panama City, FL, Spokane, WA, Colorado Springs, CO, Madrid, Spain then NY and after MA…I joined the Women’s Army Corp and added my own stations to the list…the one thing that became common in my youth was being allowed to search the woods and countryside looking for the joys of nature…you have given me many occasions to remember those happy excursions of my childhood

        Thank You, Deena

        • Deena in Phoenix says:

          Love the new header picture


        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Interesting! You lived in a lot of places!

          I lived just up the road from Stewart AFB. Your childhood love of nature sounds like mine. 🙂

          • Deena in Phoenix says:

            Went to Washingtonville HS for junior and part of my senior yrs. Actually broke my neck playing softball and spent my hosp and rehab at West Point…now that was exciting for a 16 yr old, got to rehab with the WP sport teams…made all the pain and hard work easier to take…LOL


            • rvsueandcrew says:

              You broke your neck at age 16? Geez.

              My younger sister when to Washingtonville HS! 🙂

            • Lisa, Tommie and Buddy in NJ says:

              Hi Deena,
              Thank you for your service to our country. I hope that your neck injury healed well and you have no problems from it now. I too moved a lot and found joy in the quiet beauty of nature.

  4. Georgina Lentini says:

    Great story and ending. Montana is definitely on my travel list, and this is one reason why.
    Thanks for all the inspiration you provide.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Georgina! I’m happy to see you here again. I hope you’re having a wonderful summer, wherever you are.

      Thanks for the compliment on this post.

  5. Renee from Idaho says:

    Top Ten this time! Would’ve been first, but I missed it by a few minutes! Argh! Oh Well, back to reading.

  6. Cinandjules 🌵 says:

    A little thingymaggy for a butt lift! Hah too funny!

    Sounds like a little tweaking here and there and she’all be ready to roll!

    Trout creek looks serene!

  7. Pat in Rochester says:

    You lived in Newburgh Small World! My flight instructor grew up there and claimed he was from a small country town. I told him he was a suburb-of-New-Yorker. We have a new hire in the office who also grew up there, and he agrees with me.

    I hope that future blogs will say that you continue to have good work done on the PTV. It’s nice to have a good mechanic who looks out for you. I also hope you get more time on the creek. Those are my favorite kind of your boondocks.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I love creekside camps, too… Nothing quite like the sound of a creek to prepare one for a good night’s rest. I hope you are enjoying this summer, Pat.

  8. Pauline in Mississippi says:

    Lucky PTV…I could use that also!!!! LOL Love the picture of the crew with Reggie in his bed and Roger looking out the window. They are so cute. Your camp looks nice…green trees and a stream.
    Will be leaving for Cambridge NY early Wednesday morning but will have my computer with me to keep in touch.
    Lots of love and Big Hugs to you and the crew

  9. chas anderson says:

    The mechanic sounds like he knows what he was doing.Good idea to fix bearings when belt was changed.I had 180 K on my tow vehicle (Dodge Ram diesel) and stuff wears out.
    Now that I have a Class C I am diligent on the maintenance stuff.Hope to keep it for 10 years.

    Those 2 dogs make a good pair.We decided to go with one dog after Juice passed on.Eddie requires a bit of attention but he is a good boy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, chas,

      Methinks you already have two dogs because Juice resides in your heart. Hugs to your Eddie boy.

  10. Suzette (TN) says:

    I’m enjoying this adventure, although I have to admit you had me a little worried right at first. Glad it’s all shaping up just fine. I’m so envious of your trail explorations. I can just smell the air now! Looking forward to hearing all about the buttlift! 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Suzette,

      We will move camp tomorrow. I may hitch up today because I’m curious, too, about the PTV’s rear-end makeover.

      Never worry about us, kind lady. 🙂

  11. (snerk) You said *Butt lift*….

    Just some spring lifts/spacers for the shocks or adding air shocks?

    Also, good catch on the water pump. Normally, it is something else (A/C compressor for example) that has difficulty and the power belt is collateral damage.

    Given the amount of time you spend off the beaten path (and thank you for sharing those) I wonder if you have any kind of Preventative Maintenance (PM) plan other than routine oil change/transmission service?

    My VW Eurovan has a factory based comprehensive, time and mileage based set of ‘scheduled’ maintenance items. Sometime paying a little for PM is less expensive than a major breakdown. Living in Ak may make me a little oversensitive.

    I did manage to blow the engine on my old Campmobile out in the middle of nowhere Ut. We got around that well enough, but it is one of those lessons one never forgets.

    Glad to see/hear you are back and running! Looking forward to your next set of photos.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Don,

      No, I don’t have a preventative maintenance plan. It’s high time I started replacing things. Whenever the PTV has an oil change, I do ask that the hoses and belts be checked for wear, but that isn’t always visible.

  12. Rover Ronda (WA) says:

    🚐 glad you’re on the road again

  13. Pat from Mich. says:

    Sounds like you ready to go exploring some more! That creek sure does look pretty.


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Pat,

      I do believe Trout Creek is one of the prettiest creeks I’ve ever seen. The photos I’ve taken (I’ll be posting more) don’t show her off well. She’s too beautiful!

  14. Wonderful that you found someone who can get the PTV in good shape again! Nice to spend a quiet holiday in the woods 🙂 Glad to see the boys are still loving being together.

  15. Dawn in MI says:

    So glad it’s working out and while it’s working out you’re in a beautiful place. Wonder if any of those boondocking spots you found will soon have a crew living in them?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Boondocking along Trout Creek was my hope and my plan. However, the locals have taken over the sites. They drop their trailer and let it sit there for the 16-day limit so they can camp in the primo sites for 3 consecutive weekends. Disappointing! 🙁

  16. Sam in the Ozarks AR says:

    I’m glad you found help. Yes i’m the one that bought the serpentine belt. Really I bought two so I would have a spare. Keep up the good work.

  17. Terri From Tx says:

    Glad you are in a good place for repairs! I love forest camp grounds! Thanks for showing them!
    Are we going to get to “listen” in on any coversations between R & R?
    That would be fun!
    Take good care!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Terri,

      I suppose someday Canine Corner will return. It takes a while for me to “hear their voices.” Spike and Bridget were easy. These two, not so much. 🙂

  18. weather says:

    Having problems with a vehicle is just part of life, still I wish you didn’t have to go through all of that. A mechanic that offers good service at a fair price, like Alec, can make it an easier and nicer experience. I hope the rest of the work he did for you has gone well, too.

    What a pretty campground and creek! I’m glad you had lovely, and refreshingly cooler, places near you during the heat wave.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, weather. I hope you are enjoying your summer. Your suggestion that wearing wet clothes is a good way to keep cool has worked well for me. Also wet paws help pups be comfortable in the heat… 🙂

      If the serpentine belt hadn’t broke, I wouldn’t have met the two good people who helped me. You’re right… It’s “just part of life.”

  19. Ozarkjoy says:

    Have you ever considered crossing into Canada for a while. I just spent a short period of time in BC. Very pretty. Found a gem of a double waterfall right in a very small campground at Salton. Lovely city park as well there People lovely all over. Stayed in some provincial parks. Etc. didn’t try boondocking but I’m sure a lot was available. I’ve been to Montana 3 times now and this trip made second time into the neck of Idaho but was my first but not last time venturing into Washington. I would still be there if my motorhome hadn’t give me fits in the mountains. It’s in for maintenance and repairs for the next month. Hope the fall brings better travels. Too hot here anyway for anything. What month do you start moving down to Arizona

  20. Lisa, Tommie and Buddy in NJ says:

    Hi Sue and crew
    I wish I could get a butt lift as easily as the PTV. However, I would be concerned about how many other “worn” parts I would need replaced, lol. My Dad and I are continuing to tag team my Mom’s care. I hope I am in as good shape as my Dad is when I am 86! He is amazingly strong now, I can’t imagine what he was able to do in his youth. Mom has some Dr appointments and tests over the next couple of weeks that we are hoping will discover the cause(s) of her condition so we can begin effective treatment. We take it all as it comes, just like you and your PTV bump in the road. Everything works out if we can keep on keeping on long enough.

    That river you explored is just beautiful. It reminds me of the Moose River in NE Vermont, where I had the pleasure of staying for a few months. Have you ever considered buying an extra belt or hose for the PTV? As vehicles age it can become harder to locate replacement parts if they are unique. Just a thought… travel well.

  21. ValGal (westernWA) says:

    A quiet 4th. How blissful! Nature provides the best celebration with stars at night and that beautiful rushing creek and singing pines. Delightful.

    So fun to see the personalities of the crew in the photos. I wonder what Roger thinks of his new life.

    Too bad the locals are hogging that campground. Hope you are enjoying wherever you are now.

    May the PTV settle down to trouble free times. May her butt stop sagging and her ride be high and proud! Lol.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Cute comment, ValGal! Thank you for making me smile…. I agree wholeheartedly with your descriptions of nature.

  22. kerry says:

    Sue, judging by all you have offered, information wise, about your repairs, it would appear that you have an honest mechanic that is very reasonable. The days of $50 towing and $70/hr rates are long gone in many parts of the country. I would humbly suggest that you think about doing some serious maintenance to the PTV. I would get an estimate for basically replacing every fluid and filter that you reasonably can. This would include a full automatic transmission service, which involved dropping the pan, changing the filter and replacing the fluid. Replacing the gear oil in the differential. Flushing and replacing the radiator coolant. Flushing and replacing the brake fluid, and replacing every filter that’s practical to get to. Finally have the battery load tested and the specific gravity of the cells tested. (The chain auto stores will do the test for free, without removing the battery)

    The van is getting to the age where doing this work would be highly beneficial, and help avoid the stress of sitting ten miles west of nowhere wondering how the doggies and you are going to walk to town for help. BTW, I had the exact same van, a 2006, and when it was about six years old and 120K miles, I did all of the above work to it. It’s still running flawlessly today. These things can go forever! My buddy does fleet service and has customers with GM vans that have well over 300K miles on them. The other year, one of his customers lost a van to a red light runner. That one had 525K on it, and was still working every day. IF you engage in a solid program of preventative maintenance, the PTV will last nearly forever, and be cheaper and more reliable to operate. It’s the kind of service that can prevent the unexpected need for a $3K transmission replacement, or a $600 radiator, down the road. Good luck, it’s always a pleasure to read your blog.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, kerry,

      You are a dear for taking the time to list all the things I could/should do for the PTV, and also for the paragraph about your van and other vehicles that lasted a long time due to good preventative maintenance. (At present the PTV’s mileage is 171,023.) I will refer to your comment again when we’re in a place to have the work done.

      I vow to do a better job of taking care of the PTV, kelly. She’s a great tow vehicle and deserves regular pampering!

      Thanks again. Keep enjoying my blog. 🙂

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