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Road Trip 2011--15 days and 8,000 miles of Roadster fun

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The stars appear to be aligning. For several months I have been planning to check off a list of bucket-items that all, in some way, are dependent on the roadster. About a month before take-off I started hearing the tell-tale squeal of a throw-out bearing crying over lost grease. All I could do was to have the little monster admitted to the Whitby Clinic for Ailing Snakes. Vacation was delayed...first one week, then two weeks. This past Monday I noticed that the apple trees where bearing fruit, and visions of fall and frost appear before my inner eye. Would I have to upgrade my bucket list app to "Summer 2.012"? But a quick call to Whitby calmed me...somewhat. The car is to be ready for pick-up by Friday evening.
After six years of build, rebuild and sundry mishaps perhaps, just maybe my time is drawing nigh...
And add 300miles to my road trip as I will have to drive the car home to load up the bare necessities. I wonder if my trunk lid will have "peaks" when I'm done loading everything I want to carry along...

Updated 08-15-2011 at 11:25 AM by Magnus



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  1. Magnus's Avatar
    Today. Phone rings.
    Jeff-- (Whitby): Hey, we got the transmission in...
    Jeff-- ...but the A/C clutch is shot...
    Jeff: ...and we are putting a new compressor in. We'll get your car together in time for your cruise.
    Me-- (Whatever the emoticon is for cautiously optimistic)
  2. Magnus's Avatar
    Wondering how many boxes of "5-Hour Energy" I should carry with me on this one...
  3. Magnus's Avatar
    Every trip should have some rules and preparatory notes, so here are a few I made up for this trip:

    • Pray to the whole catalog of available deities for blue skies and no traffic;
    • Buy prescription goggles with "transition" lenses;
    • Dedicated driving shoes;
    • Make sure the AAA card is bumped up to "Platinum-covered platinum with platinum filling" status;
    • Remove the victim's seat to carry necessities that won't fit in the trunk, like water and gasoline and emergency rations;
    • The route is guided by the lyrics of a classic american rock song. No, not "Route 66" or "On the Road Again". Cracker, please!;
    • Bring a Stanley 28-500 Retractable Razor Blade to deal with the bugs on the windshield while taking on fuel;
    • No music except what the car and the road provide. Music is for people who want to insulate themselves from the act of driving;
    • No fast food like McD or any other national chain. Emphasize local, fresh foods;
    • Prioritize scenic roads, like the BRP;
    • Avoid putting the top up if at all possible. It gets really claustrophobic with the top up;
    • Take a moment to chat with people who want to know more about the car;
    • Bring and drink large amounts of water. Sudden dehydration is a possibility on this trip;
    • Post updates frequently. That's why the BlackBerry is dashmounted;
    • Call mom every hour, on the hour, to let her know I am wearing clean underwear and I am not kidnapped by the mexican drug cartel. Although, if I am kidnapped I'm sure that she will be kept abreast of my condition...
    Updated 07-29-2011 at 08:55 AM by Magnus
  4. Magnus's Avatar
    By the way, just because I am won't be at home does not mean that my home is unguarded--on duty are the house sitter and Messieurs Smith and Wesson who will be more than happy to provide a severe case of lead poisoning to uninvited guests...
  5. Magnus's Avatar
    After a night of delayed US Airways flights I finally got to pick up my car at Whitby's. They have installed this amazing thing called "freeplay" in the clutch pedal. For some reason Jeff also took it upon himself to uograde the "vehicle management system" with instructions for the clutch cable adjustment knob.

    Now heading north toward Baltimore. Ready for breakfast, fuel and two weeks on the road...
  6. Magnus's Avatar
    At the first fuel stop, the pressed-on tip of rhe dip stick falls off in my hand. I hope thiis doesn't start a pattern of fall-offs.
  7. Magnus's Avatar
    Thank goodness I brought my leather jacket and warm head gear. It might be the dog days of summer but it was 62 degrees in western PA this morning. On the other hand, it's going to be 90 degrees in Des Moines by the time I roll in there.
    The transmission rebuild seems to be holding up. It got a little tough to shift around DC, but I tightened the cable a bit. Now it shifts smoother and I still have a good inch of freeplay as I enter Ohio.
    Soon time to take on more fuel.
    Yesterday I went through Philadelphia. I would have gotten a cheesesteak at Pat's but the line was lierally around the block. In 90 degree heat. Pass.
    Updated 08-19-2011 at 09:25 AM by Magnus
  8. Magnus's Avatar
    It's a heartstopping moment between the throttle cable letting go on an interstate downshift and you make it over to the shoulder. But that's why you bring pliers. All mended now.
    Updated 08-19-2011 at 09:24 AM by Magnus
  9. Jeff Collins's Avatar
    Thanks for keeping us posted, hope you have lots of fun.
  10. Magnus's Avatar
    Some day, when I can laugh about the whole ordeal, I'll share the story about when I was outside that West Des Moines Walmart, at midnight, and repaired my car with a cut fender washer, a few zip ties and a bamboo salad tong.
    Today I travelled past endless fields of "Number 2" corn. After reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" the sight of all that corn is not entirely comforting.
    I went topless all day--boy, is my face red!
    The goggles with Transition lenses was a good investment. They work day and night.
    The throwout bearing is not happy and I hope it lasts a while yet.
    Tomorrow I keep heading west.
  11. Magnus's Avatar
    Yesterday, a thousand glorious top-less miles in one day; this morning I wake up to a thousand mental images wanting to become memories, evaporating like the pieces of a vivid dream. The wind mills and the desert out-croppings and the big skies and sun-burned left ear and the weathered '47 Packard in Julesburg, CO that begs for a restoration. And the little girl in the passing minivan who asks her mommy to slow down so the girl can record me on her Nintendo gaming device for a few moments. And the guys who come up at every time I fuel and want to know more about the car.

    And here I am, waking up, wishing I would have taken more pictures myself; of Laramie, of the cloud burst, of the mile-long trains, of that other sleepy frontier town, of pharmacist Melissa who recommended Solarcainee for my scorched left ear. But in the end it is all good: today several hundred new miles await and new memories will want in...

    The car is running well. When it rains, the water comes in where I expect it would. The throttle cable is staying in it's place and the throwout bearing is quiet after turning the screw back a few turns.
    Just now noticed that the point-and-shoot camera is gone. I must have lost it last night while I was checking in to the motel. Looks like I will have to make do with the cell-phone camera.

    Yesterday I went from Des Moines to Salt Lake City. Today I turn toward the northwest.

    I'm glad I packed warm clothes. It might be scorching in the East bthe mountains after a rain at night can be chilly.

    Oh, they just called from the front desk. Seems someone found the camera next to the sprinkler system. After the watering cycle was finished....
    Updated 08-19-2011 at 09:29 AM by Magnus
  12. Magnus's Avatar
    Today I made it from Coalville, UT to Kennewick, WA. Tomorrow I will try to make it to Tacoma. Anybody guess the theme yet? If it doesn't rain tomorrow I will have driven across the US topless. Another line checked off the bucket list.

    Somebody forgot to tell me that the road inbetween is made up of washboard and desert. The Oregon roads are horribly rutted, probably as a result of flogging them regularly with truck-mounted snow chains. The car doesn't know what to make of ruts. The front end wants to be in the ruts but the back end does not.

    The throwout bearing sound like it is pretty dry and I wonder if there is any way to get lubrication to it just to keep it alive for a little while longer.

    Traveling across these desolate places gives some appreciation for what the pioneers had to endure. With no roads and 100 degree heat, how the heck did they make any progress across this land. And how they dealt with places like Snake River, I can't even imagine.

    In my hurry to get this far I have not had time to take side roads or look up quaint eateries and non-chain restaurants. I find it somewhat dismaying that every interchange has a McDonalds and a Subway but no fresh and original and different cuisine. As I turn south on PCH I hope this changes and I can get a taste for the cooking that the West coast is supposed to be famed for.
    Updated 08-19-2011 at 09:29 AM by Magnus
  13. Magnus's Avatar
    And I know that this thread needs some pictures--I will post when I can get the pictures uploaded.
  14. Magnus's Avatar
    The ladies at the Barnard Griffin winery told me Atomic Ale is a good brew pub, which it is. It is a tiny brewery housed in the A&W worked at when she was in high school. Proprietor Hippie Dave showed me the operation, and then suggested I take the scenic route to Tacoma by stopping in at Whistlin' Jack's Lodge. I had the delicious trout special by the scenic mountain stream.
    From there it was all up hill, to the Chinook Pass at 5000ft, where I came to realize that Whistlin Jack's is also a "last chance for gas" type of place. I was low on gas and out of cell phone signal. Fortunately Mt Ranier slopes off rather sharply and I managed to coast the 15 miles to Packwood and the nearest gas station.
    Then, thanks to the miracles of GPS and road construction detour I got to enjoy the 55miles back over the Chinook Pass. Still trusting the GPS I picked a motel (Courtyard) that I presumed to be in a decent neighborhood--and then this happened a block away.

    You never saw so many police cars.

    So I elected to go to a different hotel.

    The throwout bearing seems to have settled down but is still sqwawling when I touch the clutch pedal so I've taken to not using the clutch for shifting gears above first and just using throttle to match gear speeds. Yes, Whitby, there is another transmission rebuild coming up...

    Today, "all the way to Tacoma"
  15. Magnus's Avatar
    Yesterday I went from a pleasantly sunny Tacoma to a dismally damp Portland. Enough drizzle to use the wipers, not enogh to don the top.
    The Union Station area of Tacoma is redeveloped into an attractive arts district and a place I recommend for a daytrip. There is a brewpub in the area, and the smell from the fermenting brew brought bvack memories from kindergarten, which was near a brewery.
    Stopped for a Kobe steak burgert at the Twisted Fish in Seaside, OR. Delicious!
    The Blackberry Torch phone glide pad does not work well in. overcast weather.
    You know you've driven long and hard when fuel stops are anticipated in hours rather than miles.
    I have essentially. given up on using the clutch to save the throwout bearing. I ug»ase the clutch to get into first gear and I just use throttle to match gear speeds while shifting.
    Today I'm shooting for Carmel, CA. In the interest of time I've decided to skip Napa and SF and go straight for the road between Monterey and Big Sur.
  16. Magnus's Avatar
    Spotted a Citroen DS today
  17. Magnus's Avatar
    Yesterday Jeff (Whitby) called and advised that my plan to sacrifice the gearbox to nurse the TO bearing was not a good plan. The clutch cable is now adjusted to where I hear a constant squeak with the pedal let "out". Oddly, the squeak goes away if I lift the pedal or push in to shift gears. Either way, I am back to using the clutch when shifting while rolling.

    Left the gray skies of Portland and travelled I-5 south. I had hoped to travel down along the pacific coast but gave up on that to save some time. The piece I am really interested in, Monterey to Big Sur, is still ahead.
    Yesterday's highlight happened at 10pm in Berkeley, CA. On a lark I had decided not to go to Sausalito and instead redirect to Berkeley for a chance to eat at Chez Panisse. Of course, down stairs requires reservations up to a month ahead, but they found me a tablein the upstairs area. My three courses were gazpacho, salmon, yogurt sherbet with strawberries. And, as I am a bread addict, I enjoyed the chewy, hearty bread they paired with the meal. My tastebuds thanked me for this fresh and seasonal meal. Also bought two autographed books by Alice Waters at the restaurant so I have something to give mom when I get back.
    Sadly, this morning I am staying at a hotel that dispenses pancakes out a machine and pairs them with artificially flavored "pancake syrup".
    Today, "Squeaky" and I aim for Carmel.
  18. Magnus's Avatar
    OK, no Carmel. After a late start I decided on heading to Monterey instead.

    The San Fransisco traffic and road combination can be scary. You want to keep up with that hell-for-leather weekend traffic, but on those rutted concrete roads the car is all over the place and it's all you can do to hang on for dear life.

    As I closer to the Monterey penninsula I realized that just about that everybody else in the time zone was headed the same direction. Traffic was awful but I eventually made it to a prime, curbside parking spot on Cannery Row, where the car garnered lots of attention. Two kids got to sit in it while parents took pictures. Several adults posed in front of the car. One family took a lot of pictures--one picture with the car each of the eight members.

    Bought some gifts for the 'rents. Mom is getting some dipping vinegar and oil. I bought some for her 15 years ago here on a trip and she still hasn't used it so I don't know if I got her the right thing.

    Early afternoon I began the drive I have wanted to do, for many years, in this car--the Pacific Coast Highway. You haven't driven the PCH until you've driven it in your dream car. Another item off my bucket list. Even with the abundant weekend traffic and construction, the PCH is a glorious piece of road.

    While planning for the trip I had noticed a side road called Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, that snakes through Lime Kiln state park. This road is like the mother of the Tail of the Dragon. This road has no lane markings, no guard rails, an infinite view of the pacific, rises 2500 feet in about five miles, no banking of the curves, and feels more twisted than ToD. Best of all, none of Tennessee's "finest". There is no "Tree of Shame", because if you run off the road here, all traces of you and your ride are gone. The steep rise of the road means that you start your jaunt down in the mist and then halfway to the crest you emerge into the sunshine and you have a stunning view of a verdant valley blanketed by the clouds you came up through. And if you pull over and cut your engine, the silence is stunning. No crickets, no birds, no traffic--nothing!

    Some people wondered why, in 90 degrees weather, I would bring a leather jacket and lambskin head gear. All I can tell you is the Samuel Clemens was right when he quipped that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco. It was so cold on PCH today that I wore my arm gear all day. When I got to San Simeon it was 63 degrees.

    And if you want a hotel room along the coast. In the summer. On a weekend--bring boatload of money. And make reservations a couple of decades ahead of time. One place in San Luis Obispo wanted $289 for a run-of-the-mill room that would have cost $89 at any interstate exit.

    So I ended up having to run over to Lost Hills to get a room.

    Tomorrow I'd like to check off L.A. I hope the weekend means less traffic although that is wishful thinking since Joe Average drives more on the weekend than during the week.

    Car is still running well apart from that squeak that sounds like the throwout bearing going bad. The cluth cable is now adjusted so the gears change smoothly, there is an inch of freeplay and there is a bit of a squeal.
  19. Magnus's Avatar
    Yesterday's highlights were Mulholland Highway, The Rock Store and Rodeo Drive. And a road side taco stand that served up a delicious burrito with lime wedges and Jarritos soda.
    Yesterday's "lowlights" were L.A. traffic, L.A. traffic and L.A. traffic.
    As it was a Sunday, Mulholland and the Rock Store offered a multitude of motorcycles and a few interesting cars. You'll everything from blinged out barrio-bikes to tricked out track machines. At the Rock Store there are so many dozens of bikes parked by the store that cars have to park across the road.
    As for cars, I spotted a Caterham, a Beck Spyder and an highly midified Lotus Elise that snorted and hissed with nitrous as it zipped by. The Beck driver shook his head and said the Elise puts down about 500RWHP and is just a crazy machine. I think my next car will be something from the Colin Chapman collection.
    I headed westbound from the Rock Store and gt treated to a highly entertaining pieces of road. I wasn't trying to push the limits of the car and the road was still very challenging with it's tight coils and twists.
    Then I thought I would zip over to Beverly Hills, but there was no zipping to be done. Instead I joined the mechical ooze that passes for traffic here. From Malibu to Rodeo drive it was bumper to bumper the whole way. I had no overheating issues, though, at least not with the engine...
    Once in the Beverly Hills area I had to grab some touristy picttures on Beverly Drive and cruised down Rodeo drive. If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, take your Roadster down that street and you'll have your picture taken every ten feet.
    As the sun began to set I had reached the halfway point in my journey and I start back east.
    Before me lies the Mojave desert. I have taken on a full tank of gas and two cases of bottled water. The engine oil is topped of for some extra cooling capacity.
    Next stop: Death Valley...
  20. Magnus's Avatar
    Yesterday: Mojave, CA to Wickenburg, AZ via Death Valley and Las Vegas. Pints of water consumed: 12--(i can't imagine what our troops endure in Iraq.)
    Supposedly it was 110 degrees F in the shade in Death Valley. Well, with the top down and sitting behind the engine, I thing it was a degree or two hotter in the Roadster. Yes, the car is equipped with A/C, but at 110 degrees ambient the car runs near 220 degree and hotter if have to idle for a few minutes. I'm going to need a bigger radiator...there were a few times I had to run the heater just stabilize the temperature in the engine.
    At times it got so hot my nostrils would sting on inhale, so I kept breathing through my mouth.
    I stopped a few times to take pictures and dispose of some of those 12 pints. When you cut the engine the silence is stunning. No birds, no traffic noise, not even crickets. Just the searing air grating against your exposed skin. Oh, did I mention that I'm wearing long pants and long sleeved shirt to protect me from sunburn.
    Along the way there are several reminders that there used to be mining operations in the valley, most notably of Borax, which was loaded on wagons drawn by 20 mules. How the heck they drove donkeys all day and survived without A/C is beyond me.
    Eventually I made it into Las Vegas and onto "The Strip". Another bucket list item checked off, but not a big deal since you essentially are just stuck in big city traffic the whole time. I did get to see the fountains at Bellagio and that was my cue to head east, past the Hoover Dam.
    I had hoped to cross the on the new bridge and get a grand view of the dam and the canyon downstream. Except, the walls on the bridge are four foot high, so in a Roadster you see walls and sky when you cross the gorge. Booo! Hiss!
    Now in Wickenburg where the nightlife consists of drinking or drinking a lot, which I was too tired to do.
    Today I push toward Phoenix and then east. As I'm shuffling through the Texas sand, I wonder if my head will be in Mississippi. (ZZ Top reference)
    Updated 08-15-2011 at 07:59 PM by Magnus
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