Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Racin': Driving to South Bend: Day 1, Seattle to Billings

Got to bed last night at 11:30 after packing the trailer and working on the headlights with Francis (one was burnt out, the other had to be aimed better). I got up at 3:00 a.m. so that I could get out of the house by 4:00. I wanted to get to Missoula, Montana in time for lunch with our other son, Walter, who goes to school at U of M there. I got there, but it took some doing!

Everything seemed fine as I headed east on I-90 out of the Puget Sound lowlands and into the Cascades. It started to snow just before Snoqualmie Pass which made me a bit nervous because I have high-performance summer tires on the car and they are as wide as steamrollers, not the best for driving in snow. In addition the rubber compound in the tires is meant to work in the Spring, Summer and Fall. In the cold it gets quite hard. Luckily the air temperatures were not that cold. I hit snow several more times during the day, but the roads stayed bare and wet, so it was quite safe.

On the way up to Snoqualmie Pass, the car started running really rough and immediately threw a Check Engine light. The car felt like it did the time I blew a head gasket, with two cylinders not firing properly. If I blew a head gasket, my One Lap adventure would be over practically before it had gotten started. I was seriously worried. This time, it felt like only one cylinder had dropped out. I started to come down the other side of the Pass and pulled off the highway at Cle Elum to take a look. I shut the car off and restarted it and it ran on all 6 cylinders. Yay! I still have to pull out my code reader and take a look at what faults are stored in the computer, but will probably do that tomorrow morning before I take off.

The next bit of excitement occured at the first gas stop. I decided to push all the way to Ritzville, forsaking all the open gas stations at Moses Lake. I have this thing about getting the most out of every tank of gas. I want to keep driving as long as possible and stop as infrequently as possible. Pushing gas stops helps me do that, but it can make things nerve wracking on occasion, like this morning. When the Reserve light comes on, I know that I have about 30 miles before the tank runs dry. When the light came on, I was passing a mileage sign; Ritzville 31 miles. I knew that if I got there, I would be running on fumes. I wasn't actually all that worried because Francis and I had put a 6 gallon container of gas in the trailer, but it is a bit of a pain to do it on the side of the road if you don't have to.

Anyway, as I was pulling in to the Shell station in Ritzville, the engine coughed. I had just made it. The Roadster drank 13.298 gallons of premium. The specifications in the owner's manual say that the tank capacity is 13.2 gallons including the reserve. I guess the extra .098 gallons went into the filler neck. That is cutting it much to close and I have modified my behavior somewhat. The worst part of this is that the car got 17.19 mpg on that first tank. The trailer is extra heavy this year will all sorts of tools and stuff. Probably too heavy, but there's not much to do about that except to consume the consumables as quickly as possible. We have a cooler strapped to the tongue of the trailer with 36 Diet Pepsi s and 30 16 oz Talking Rains. That's about 57 pounds of liquids, not counting the ice! Guess I'd better start drinking.

Across the street from the Shell station is a Starbucks. I had finished my morning coffee brewed at home and was ready for another, so I drove across the street and into the parking lot. As I did, the wheels on the trailer locked up. They shouldn't as they are just spinning freely on the axles, so I got out to look. The passenger side trailer tire was wedged against the back frame and the driver's side tire was wedged against the front frame. The curbing on that street in Ritzville is very steep. I must have hit it at an angle and twisted the axle on the leaf springs. I dragged the trailer forward into the parking lot and got to work.

I could see that all I had to do was jack up the trailer, loosen the bolts holding the axle to the leaf spring via two big U shaped bolts and then move one wheel forward and the other wheel back. It took about an hour to get that done, but I did get it done. Those bolts are really tight now. I rewarded myself with the Americano that I had been wanting since earlier.

I was pretty nervous getting back on the highway and up to speed, but everything seems to be holding together well. I've put almost 600 miles on since the repair. Of course I am obsessively checking it each time I stop for gas or food or whatever, but it is holding up so far.

I called Francis to let him know about the Check Engine light and the trailer snafu. He was impressed with the way I McGyvered the axle. Later in the morning, he called me and suggested that I run some fuel injector cleaner through the motor. I've never done that before and now that this supercharged S52 motor has 203,000+ miles on it, maybe it's about time. I picked up some at an auto parts store in Missoula after lunch with Walter at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries and put it in at my next gas stop in Butte. Gas mileage had been in the 17s all day; very depressing. The tank with the injector cleaner came in at 19.25 mpg! God, I hope that continues.

I'm in a Motel 6 in West Missoula and am going to bed soon. I've traveled 803 miles today and have another 800 mile day in front of me tomorrow if I am going to get to my sister and brother-in-law's house in Esko, Minnesota as planned. Going to get started at about 5:00, so I'd better get to bed soon.

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.