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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

or how our trip began

I know it, we know it, you've told me it, there will be mechanical breakdowns and unforeseen events of all kinds during our year-long journey. We have been preparing for several months now, so we're confident that even if there are glitches, they will either be solved quickly (I have got a pretty good stock of spare parts, thanks) or they will be solved once we have tackled Death Valley or the high-altitude campsites of American national parks... Well, not exacty...

We left Cantley on the morning of June 23, heading for Francois and Chantal's St-Jean party to say goodbye to friends. On June 26 we headed for the Parc de la Yamaska to continue the dry run and see my brother and friends. On June 29, we arrived at the home of Stephanie's brother, another Patrick, for a farewell party and to repair a drawer that failed (thanks to my brother in-law who found an elegant solution). Finally, we left for real on July 2 to....return home! Well, yes, because our ATM card for our American bank account had finally arrived in the mail... In returning home, we unwittingly triggered a rather stressful domino effect...

After driving more than seven uninterrupted hours to stop at home and head south again, we finally arrived at the American border at Lansdowne (Thousand Islands). As you know, we planned ahead...even rehearsing our script for the U.S. customs officer on the way...and here we were, confidently waiting to talk to the officer. But holy crap...where is our bloody RV registration? Search, search again, swear, search, no way to find them. Never mind, what are the chances that the customs officer will ask us for the registration papers?

Suddenly, just before braking in front of the American customs officer, three beautiful pictograms light up on the dashboard: the indicators for the ABS brakes, traction control and anti-lock system decide to light up...what's that? We're bombarded with questions by the customs officer (we'd been very...too...transparent). The customs officer asks me for the RV registration...oh boy...I mumble an answer that doesn't seem very convincing but does the job. She climbs, we don't have any rutabaga or fresh vegetables. As she questions us, the engine continues to run and suddenly the "engine" pictogram lights up...oh, F*CK....

The customs officer gets off the RV and tells us that we can set off again, but in the space of 15 minutes I have four rather serious pictograms on my dashboard. At this point, I can't stop so I consult my "scan gauge", which interprets the error codes linked to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. An EGR valve that's not working well, not too serious for the moment, but it could put us in "limp mode" if the valve stops working. The other codes concern my ABS brake valve and right front wheel braking management. Really not great, but I have no choice but to get onto the Mille-Îles bridge, where it is not possible to stop without blocking the bridge.

No problem, like Obiwan Kenobi, we call out to the force, taking it easy and using the brakes as little as possible. To make matters worse, the "limp mode" signal starts flashing on the dashboard. For those who haven't owned a Mercedes (the lucky ones), "limp mode" is ultimately a "snail mode" that limits speed and suppresses certain functions, while STRONGLY suggesting that you stop as soon as possible. I can't do that here, so we carry on, the brakes making weird noises and not working at their best, I've got no acceleration power left, but I can still go at 50 km/h. The motorhome pulls slowly onto the bridge, grumbling but finally climbing the slope as my four riders trumpet on my dashboard.

Finally, we are through the bridge, the pictograms from hell are still there, but we have avoided "snail mode" after all. We stop at the first opportunity, where we frantically search the codes on the internet to evaluate our next steps, when suddenly the three pictograms disappear...what's going on? It's a fantastic intermittent mechanical problem… great!

The speed sensor on the right wheel needs changing, not too complicated (thanks You Tube!) but the part isn't to be found in the heart of the Adirondacks. So, we set off for Ticonderoga on back roads to reduce speed, while paying close attention to the behavior of the "Caravan Guard" as it carries us to our destination. We had already scheduled a stop at Mercedes in Albany on July 5 for recalls (EGR valve), so this stop will be an opportunity to make the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse disappear (but at what price!).

It's a rockier than expected start to the adventure, but better to deal with it now than later when options are more limited. This is a test for the vehicle but also for us, and during this episode we kept smiling, minimized stress and ensured everyone's safety. We managed the stress well because as we went to bed that night, I was telling Stephanie how we had had a bad day when Christophe popped his head up and asked us, "Wait, we had a bad day? I thought we had had a pretty great day." He was right, we had had a perfect day in our new Nomad Life.

P.S. It's July 4 and we have visited the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga - wow, gorgeous! But the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse have least for the moment....

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