Off Beat

A crash course in truck talk

By: Penne Usher
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I consider myself a rather capable and independent woman, but there are times when even the most competent of women needs a guy – or three. Many of you may know that I have a bit of a masculine side in that I drive a Ford F-250, 4-wheel drive, power stroke diesel, long bed pickup. I tow a 25-foot trailer and can back it into a tight camping spot on my own, thank you very much. I know how to change a tire, dig a posthole and build furniture. I can cook a gourmet or kid-friendly meal and whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies that will melt in your mouth. However, I do not speak truck. Thankfully, I have several guy friends that not only speak truck – they speak Ford. Actually I think they bleed blue. Just the other day I was headed full-speed ahead to Foresthill to cover the story of a runner training for the Western States 100 run who went missing Sunday night (for those of you haven’t kept up, Daniel Rose was found safe) when my beast of a truck died. The engine just cut out. I called AAA and a tow truck was sent out. The battery was fine, he’d have to tow the truck. You’d think for the $50 or so I pay for roadside service I’d get towed farther than the garage in Foresthill. The nice tow truck driver did say he could take me 10 miles from where I stalled. That would put me … nowhere, well somewhere between Foresthill and Auburn and no closer to getting the story or my truck fixed. It would cost me $9 a mile to get the truck back to Auburn. Ouch. This is where it pays to have good guy friends. Two Ford-driving co-workers, Jim Easterly and Don Holter, drove to Foresthill to my rescue. They pondered the possible reasons my truck died. The first question was, ‘Do you have fuel in the tank?” Of course. I may be blond (today) but come on, I can remember to fill up my tank with diesel. They checked all the fuses (there are some in the engine compartment – who knew). They checked relays, the crank sensor and the high-volume oil pump. What? I don’t speak truck. I don’t speak Ford. Luckily they do. Stupefied we headed back to Auburn. Enter third Ford guy – Josh Souza. Now the truck is hooked up to some sort of diagnostic device attached to a laptop computer. The fuses were checked again. Souza and Holter climbed practically into the engine and checked something else – I think it was the wiring harness, but don’t ask because every word they said sounded like Swahili to me. I don’t know what a wiring harness is or what it does, but it turns out mine was broken. The wiring harness for the fuel injector pumps shorted out. Good to know. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so dumb in my life. Here were these three guys working diligently to find the problem, talking amongst themselves and all I could do was stand there and nod. The Journal’s Penne Usher can be reached at