VIDEO: One Dumb Mistake…

Posted In: Destinations, People We Meet, SEEMORE, Video, Wildlife

To paraphrase Sinatra, “Dumb mistakes? I’ve made a few.” Yes, throughout the course of our travels, I’ve made my share of dumb mistakes. Of course, what I’m referring to are more accurately described as careless mistakes. A dumb mistake is something you might make on an IQ test. A careless mistake is far more common when camping. Sure, you may know that it’s unwise to open the sewer valve before attaching the hose. But you got in a hurry, and you did something careless. And now you have nasty water spilling on the ground.

I’m happy to report that so far my dumb mistakes have caused minimal harm to others, our Airstream, and the environment. I haven’t pulled a BP and spilled ten billion gallons of black water in the Gulf of Mexico. I haven’t forgotten to properly hitch our Airstream before driving away. I’ve done little things. Like the time we were in North Dakota and I filled SEEMORE’s diesel belly full of gasoline.

What happens when you put unleaded gasoline in a diesel truck? My understanding is that you can put a few gallons in the tank and be okay. While I’m not recommending that you try it, I’ve been told that a couple of gallons in a large 30-gallon tank wouldn’t hurt things too much. An entire tankful of unleaded gas, on the other hand, can cause all sorts of trouble. It can cause your engine to go kaboom.

In this case, I was fortunate on a couple of fronts. First of all, I discovered the problem before cranking the truck. If I had fired up the truck and driven away, it’s very likely that damage to bearings, pistons, and even a head gasket could have been the result. Things would have gotten messy and expensive very fast. We would have faced a massive repair bill, one probably involving a rental car and an unplanned extended stay in a campground. Since I discovered the problem right away, the risk of damage was minimized.

Secondly, we were lucky that this problem happened in North Dakota. The state may have a small population, but it ranks unusually high on the “nice people” charts. Rodney, the fellow who rode to our rescue, was fantastic.

I spoke with him about the situation. In most places, the diesel island is 100 percent diesel. You can’t really screw up royally when pumping from the diesel island. In North Dakota, there is also unleaded fuel on the island. Hence my dumb mistake. When I pulled into the fueling station, I spotted the diesel island. I quickly hopped out of our truck and filled my tank with fuel from the first pump. It was only upon returning the handle to the pump that I discovered my mistake.

In the background under the red roof are the unleaded gasoline pumps. Our truck SEEMORE is parked at the diesel island. Usually when you see a dedicated diesel island that is separated from all of the unleaded gasoline pumps, you can only obtain diesel from that island. Here there was a gasoline pump on the diesel island.

Rodney told me that he’d visited this particular station before on a similar syphoning job.

“That guy was a Texas oil company executive,” Rodney said, “who was in town on business.”

I nodded. There were several oil fields in the vicinity of this North Dakota town.

“Boy, was he mad,” Rodney chuckled. “He couldn’t believe that there was unleaded gas on the diesel island.”

In contrast to the executive, I wasn’t angry. Sure, I think offering unleaded fuel on the diesel island probably isn’t the greatest idea, but the situation was ultimately my fault. I somehow managed to find the humor in the situation and laugh about it.

After Rodney finished syphoning the unleaded fuel out of our truck (a process that took at least an hour), it was time to settle up.

“What do I owe you?” I asked.

Rodney shook his head.

“Nothin’,” he replied.

“I need to pay you something,” I insisted.

“For what?” he said with a wry grin. “For takin’ your gas?”

Sure, I gave Rodney the tankful of gas, which he turn gave to local farmers. But most tow companies would have stuck me for a hefty bill. Let’s suppose he charged me $150. Then I would be out that sum plus the amount paid for the gasoline, so this fiasco would have been a $250 mistake. Then I would need to pump another $100 worth of diesel, meaning this would have been a $350 gas station visit. That’s enough to spoil anyone’s day.

But Rodney was incredibly kind and generous. We left town thankful that this particular dumb mistake happened in North Dakota. In the end, thanks to Rodney, it didn’t really spoil our day.


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