Did you know that if you fill up a diesel engine with unleaded gasoline it will not run very well? Did you know that the engine would probably overheat to such a high temperature that pistons would bust, bearings would melt and the engine would go caput? Yeah we pretty much knew that too. However, in Paducah, KY, at a BP station, we managed to fill our RV’s tank up with $100 worth of gasoline, which isn’t cool because a diesel-run engine doesn’t like that. Then why did we do that? Well, we’re idiots, but not complete idiots like you’d think.
It turns out that the BP stations out here put green and black plastic sheathing on their pump handles somewhat sporadically. The green and black color coordinating at the pumps is done more out of personal convenience for the pump handle manufacturer than ease of use for the weary traveler in need of fuel. We pulled up to a pump covered in so much green you’d think it was St. Patty’s day. We filled the mother up and then went on our way muttering “peace out’s” to Paducah as we drove off towards Nashville. After about five miles on the freeway our dear mother began to sputter. I ran to the front cockpit and asked Nick “WTH” was going on? He remained calm, collected and maneuvered her off the nearest exit coasting her into a gas station.
Our dreams of reaching Nashville evaporated into the air much like the gasoline vapors rising from our tank. Hour after hour passed as we checked fuel filters, revved the engine and stared dumbly at the ground beneath our feet. Nick found a jumpsuit to wear, so we all felt a little more secure in knowing that we had the look of a mechanic on our side, but now all we needed was an actual clue as to what was wrong with our vehicle. You see it was still unknown to us that we’d flooded our engine with the wrong kind of fuel, oops.
After replacing our fuel filter and kicking a couple of important-looking pieces of metal on the undercarriage we figured the job was done and we’d continue on our merry way. The engine started, though the “check engine light” was still on, and we merged onto the freeway with a false confidence in the work we’d just done. Three miles down the road the mother began to sputter again. She was climbing hills like an obese woman on a hike and without our permission she eventually shut herself off entirely. Without automatic steering Nick wrestled the wheel to the right and vibrated our way over the grooves on the shoulder of the freeway. After a few minutes she started up again, and we traveled a few miles more until she pooped out again. We did this for about five to eight miles until we finally reached an on off-ramp two hours later. The exit led us into the town of Princeton, and once again we found ourselves coasting, but this time it was into a Wal Mart parking lot that would act as our campground for the night.
We erupted with joy and redneck hoots of excitement upon reaching a safe place to be broken down. We all ran for the door and sprinted our way into Wal Mart. Never before had its day-old bakery items smelled so sweet. A wide variety of food was purchased that night and we ate small feasts in celebration of another day survived. We officially decreed the night to be a “Fun Night” as the team morale was in great need of a boost. We rented a movie, rolled out the astro-turf, unfolded the lawn chairs, and began our movie night right on the side of our RV. Twenty relaxing minutes into the movie we were interrupted by a voice that could have come from the throat of Satan himself. It was the manager of Wal Mart with a pony-tailed sidekick coming out to lay down the law of her corporate wonderland. She snarled and accused, stomped her foot and swayed with agitation. Her eyes glowed a faint red as the asphalt began to ooze under the heat of her gaze. “Y’all can’t be sitting out here! Whatta ya think yer doing? This ain’t a campgroun’! Whaddaya think this eez?” Defeated once again we were forced to turn off our movie, relocate our RV to a far corner of the lot and retire ourselves to bed. Jesse and I snuck off into a nearby cornfield and made our beds among the beasts of the field. Before closing my eyes in exhaustion I managed to mutter a final prayer to end the frustrating day, “you suck, amen.”
As the sun rose over Wal Mart the next morning we were determined to find a cure for our RV’s ailment. The plan was to mosey mother down the road about a mile to the nearest gas station, which just so happened to be a BP station. We pulled up to a pump and prepared to fill up the tank with diesel in hopes that the new filter and fresh fuel would magically fix the problem. We hopped out of the RV and quickly realized that we’d pulled up to a pump only serving gasoline in three different flavors, yet the pump handle was unmistakably green in the shade reserved for diesel pumps. Nick looked up at me with an expression Sherlock Holmes often wore when cracking a case. “Could we have?” I nodded in affirmation of his discovery and scurried around to the other pumps only to find that handle colors were meaningless in Kentucky, as so many things seem to be, and we were about to make a grave mistake once again. We informed our leader Steven of our findings and he was quick to share our feeling of shock, fear, and amusement. He called BP from the day before and confirmed that we were in fact idiots.
Now what? We had 40+ gallons of unleaded gasoline mixed with about a quarter tank of diesel. Where would we dump this? Could we douse the local Wal Mart and have our revenge on Satan and her dominion? Could we dump into a waste-water tank at a truck stop without getting too much attention? Bustling back and forth with a five gallon gas tank and dumping it into a hole in the ground wouldn’t look too suspicious would it? We were between a rock and a hard place. Some of us ignored the problem, some of us leapt into blind action, some of us prayed, and others started planning the future of our trip as if it would all go on without a hitch. It’s rather amusing to see how everyone reacts in the face of each minor tribulation.
We sat without a clue until a couple of Princeton Police officers came over to see what we were doing. The gas station attendant reported us for looking suspicious because we had been photographing and such (I guess this doesn’t happen much in Kentucky?). The people in Princeton were quite suspicious of anything that didn’t come from Princeton and we stuck out like a six-pack in a dry county. After they assured us that they were desperately bored and needed some excuse for getting out of the station they handed Ezzy an unofficial Princeton Police sticker and went on their way in search of the local moon-shiner.
Eventually the locals became curious of our massive recreational vehicle sitting idle in their beloved parking spaces. A few hospitable Kentuckians asked what troubles we were having and we sheepishly confessed that we’d put gasoline in our diesel engine. Their reactions were all the same; eyes rolled, hands thrown over their faces and a satisfactory nod that this happened to stupid Californians, and not their own. We eventually began to offer them gas since we had no better place to put it. They provide the pump, or a siphon and we’d provide the gas. Then came toothless Hank rolling up in a beat up pick up truck that brought an aroma of Mexico City everywhere it drove. We offered him the gas and he reacted like he’d won the 81 million Kentucky Lottery Jackpot. Sure he’d take it. Hell he’d put it straight into his pick up truck on the spot.
Our $100 gas giveaway began in the parking lot with toothless Hank. We filled his truck’s tank, and then he got on the phone with his buddy Harry who’d be happy to fill up 12+ gas cans with our diluted fuel. Before Harry showed up another young man arrived and we filled his truck up with gas as well. Then came Harry with his gas cans and a big smile on his face. Before greeting us in any way he started right in on a racist joke about the stupidity of certain ethnic groups and how we must be feeling a lot like them at the moment. He had his laugh and then giggled himself over to our tank to gather his loot from our weary mother. We milked the tank for about an hour and dispersed nearly 40 gallons of crappy fuel into three different pick up trucks, fifteen gas cans, and a flower watering can. Kentucky got a good laugh out of us, and then they got some gas out of us. You’re welcome Kentucky, and oh yeah, you suck.