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Thread: Washington to Florida in Hrly Erl

  1. #1
    Bernard Guest


    The trip went smoothly from Pensacola to San Juan, CA, where the Alaskan Airlines plane which was to take us to Seattle broke down. We got into Seattle at 0230 local time on Sunday, 20th, instead of 1930, 21st.

    The printed computer page of Orbitz reservations with the motel information didn't make the trip. We were in the Seattle/Tacoma airport at 0230 with no information about our accomodations at all. Eventually it occurred to me to try to get an Orbitz number from information, which turned out to be possible despite my cheery pessimism, and they did have the information, and the motel was still holding the room.

    The Schultz's picked us up later that morning and took us to their beautiful 1904 Craftsman home in Stanwood, were we met the Buick for the first time. It is all it was supposed to be: a really good ten-footer with only minor cosmetic blemishes here and there. It started and purred like a kitten.

    Mrs. Schultz fed us a good meal, and then we were off. We got two miles.

    Kids flagged us down and told us we'd lost a hubcap at the turn back there; by the time we got back to the turn, the hubcap was nowhere to be found. I left the car idling with the headlights on (it was gloomy that day, with a light drizzle falling). The car stalled. No more than 15 minutes later I realzied the headlights were on, and dim. The car wouldn't start. A fellow in a truck stopped, listened to my explanation, and produced a multimeter. Two volts. We called the Schultzs, and they came and towed us back to their home. The battery charged all night while we slept in their third-story bedroom, and in the morning the car started quickly and Mrs. Schultz led us to a battery supplier in the next little town and paid for a new 6-volt battery ($101). And then we were off.

    But not for long.

    We got about an hour down I-5 and the car quit running, just as we were cresting a hill. I didn't know that Mr. Schultz had filled the tank for us, so I suspected the gas gauge and thought we'd run out of gas. We were able to get out of the center lane and onto the shoulder, and just barely coast over the crest of the hill, to see an exit ramp! Wonderful! But alas, there was a truck crawling down the shoulder of the exit ramp while a man sprayed weed killer at the shoulder, and traffic was streaking by on the ramp . . we were blocked! What are the odds of having the exit ramp at exactly the right place, and having it blocked by a maintenance truck killing weeds?

    I tried a restart, and it worked. We drove around the truck, to the bottom of the ramp,and turned left into the underpass beneath I-5. And stalled again, but again with enough momentum to just get out of trouble. The underpass had no shoulders and vertical concrete walls, but we rolled just out of it onto a shoulder.

    I called AAA; gas was brought and taken on board; the car started; it drove 500 feet, stalled again, and would not restart. Luckily the flatbed wrecker which had brought the gas was still behind us, and we were shortly on it and on our way to the nearest Buick dealer, Valley Pontiac GMC in a small Washington town whose name I don't recall at the moment.

    There were employed Andrew and Bob, two old-timers, who traced the problem to a loose low-voltage hot wire connection at the coil, and who also found burned points as a result of the poor connection. They cleaned up the points, tightened the connection, and the car purred more smoothly than before. It was determined that all the transmission fluid on the flatbed had spilled out when the car was being loaded or unloaded, and was at an impossibly steep angle. That, thank goodness, proved out true in the coming days. Bob also found that the rear transmission mount is broken, with the transmission resting on the frame. That will be one of the first repairs.

    We were off again, and had no more trouble that day or the next.

    Driving impressions: Remarkably smooth; far less body lean than I'd anticipated, and better road-holding. The steering will do wonders for my trapezoids and pecs.

    People impressions: The people of Washington and Oregon are far more polite than they are down my way, both on their feet and behind their wheels, and the south is supposed to be so hosiptable . . . .

    Coming soon: the fuel pump wire, the fuel pump, and a mysterious starting problem.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like a shaky start Bernard.
    Looking forward to Chapter 2.
    Joe-(39 Century)

    Remember it takes approximately 3500 bolts to build a Buick and only 1 Nut to spread them all over the highway"

  3. #3
    Quijote Guest


    [img]graemlins/beers.gif[/img] My compliments, unknown friend. I own a resplendent '49 Super Sedanette, ex-Texan car, absolutely original and perfect.
    Don't blame in excess the troubled journey -think 'bout that you have stories for the next years- .
    An' just by the way: What's the average speed you use to cruise down in USA? We have strong problems with 'em average fliers down here. None o'em goes less than 100 mph. Tnaks God by the trucks.
    Thank you by your experiences. [img]smile.gif[/img] .

  4. #4
    Bernard Guest


    39 -- most of the shaking came from out-of-round, out-of-balance (but new) WWW bias-ply tires . . .

    Quijote--We don't blame the troubled journey. Our rule was "If it doesn't cause physical pain or flowing blood, it's fun." That rule held well. We were limited to about 70 mph buy the unbalanced tires, and typically ran 65 to 70 on the highway--16 mpg average!

  5. #5
    Bernard Guest


    I've got Dee's notes now. We broke down Monday in Tutwilla (Tutwila?), WA, and were hauled to Valley Buick Pontiac GMC in Auburn, WA, where we were treated royally. The two mechanics involved are Bob and Jerry. I wish I had their last names to share, but they're lost in the notes somewhere. If you're ever up that way, stop in and tell them how grateful the couple with the maroon 49 Super still is for their knowledge and special interest.

    Almost next door to the dealership is a Teriaki restaurant in a strip mall (not the Oriental soup restaurant). The food is inexpensive, very good, and the servings are huge. Yes, it's worth the special mention.

    Anyway, by Monday night, the end of our first full day on the road, we'd made it to Portland and holed up at a moderately inexpensive motel. Our taste in motels, when all we're going to do is shower, brush out teeth, and sleep, is Concrete Tents of America. The Aladden Motel was a cut or two above that, but not expensive. A day in a 49 Buick, a tow truck, and a dealership customer lounge makes for a comfortable bed.

    We had managed a whopping 208 miles, but got 18.5 mpg, incluing the cheat mileage on the flatbed trailer. Okay, okay -- we won't count that tank . . . .

    From Dee's log: "Different kind of fir and spruce trees"; [at the breakdown at Tutwilla] "Gas? Bernard gone to get gas, help, see where we are!!" (I had to walk some distance to an intersection and step out into traffic to read the street sign identifying the street we were on).

    From my notes: "Everybody is friendly up here--"SNIKI TIKI," a 50's Ford coupe w/Chev 350, pulled over, along with a 64.5 Mustang, 6 guys got out . . . " I remember thinking that only one looked like a menacing 50s greaser, and the rest looked like the northeast's equivalent of southern good ole boys . . .the driver had cherry red cheeks and a goofy smile beneath a bristly moustache. They were satisfied when we told them AAA was on the way. Before we were carried away, SNIKI TIKI, with its irridescent lime green paint and bamboo-motief lettering, passed us again, going in the same direction.

    I checked the engine oil and transmission fluid before getting out on the road again Tuesday. We needed transmission fluid--but what kind? An origial shop manual came with the car (and, encouragingly, was free of greasy fingerprints), but it did not include anything about the Dynaflow transmission. The original owner's manual, which we also got, helpfully specified "General Motors Special Transmission Fluid." We were directed to Pacific Car Care, a modern-looking, clean auto parts store. A man old enough to have grandchildren called his father on the phone to find out what kind of fluid we should use . . . "Dad, we have this 49 Buick down here with an automatic. What kind of transmission fluid does it use? Dextron? Okay . . okay. . . yeah. . .thanks, Dad." Neither my notes nor my memory explain why we went from there to an auto parts store for the fluid, but we did. At Baxter Auto Parts a woman who divided her attention between me and a telephone conversation told me where to find transmission fluid. Uh-oh. No plain Dextron. there was Dextron II and Dextron III and Dextron with dimetholetholphenobarbital. Which to use? I again got half the woman's attention--Dextron III, she said. Apparently Dextron III covers Dextron and Dextron II, except in some models of Honda, which specify Dextron II. With some anxiety I bought four quarts of Dextron III and poured one in.

    So far, so good, over 3,000 miles later. Y'all tell me if I'm causing a slowly-developing disaster, please!

    We also got four quarts of Havoline motor oil and two bottles of lead substitute. I'm not a particular fan of Havoline, but I do believe in not switching brands of oil or even viscosities, and seller Don told me Havoline was what was in it.

    It was 9:30 a.m. before we got back on I-5--again, not an industriously early start, but we were looking forward to a good solid day on the road.

    From Dee's notes: "Lots of log trucks. Trees (logs) are much bigger than in Escambia County [Florida]. Normal to see trucks with two or three trailers. Scenery in Washington and Oregon spectacular." Up there they are still cutting virgin timber, apparently. Down south we cut genetically-fiddled Southern yellow pine "super trees," which grow very fast, are a harvest-size six inches in diamater in just a few years, and have so little resin in them that they're only 2/3 as strong as nature's model and about half as resistant to wood rot. And that, Boyz and Girlz, is what we have to build houses with nowadays . . .

    From my notes: "No fruther mechanical problems. 55 mph indicated = 61 +/- actual. Car is a handfull--bias ply tires"

    It seemed to me we had been traveling rather briskly for the speedometer reading. I clocked a mile by mile posts in 59 seconds at an indicated 55 mph. Later, I would record 4 minutes, 10 seconds over a 5 miles at an indicated 60 mph, confirming that we were going 1.2 times the indicated speed. An odometer check across one of Oregaon's odometer check sections showed we were traveling 1.15 times the odometer-recorded distance.

    Ach! Time to keep a dentist appointment . . . more later.

  6. #6
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    tutwila? could it possibly be tuKwila?

    when does the slide show start?

  7. #7
    Yogi442 Guest


    it is Tukwila, approx 8 miles NE of Sea-Tac airport south of Seattle. Glad your experience in the land of fire and ice was enjoyable even if the start home was a little rough. You are partially right about the timber. It is not as much virgin as you think. Weyerhauser has been replanting up here for nearly 75 years. They are on their 3rd and 4th go around. Timber here is larger spuce, pine etc. That is why it is called the Evergreen State. Stanwood is only about 15 miles north of me and it is pretty much all rural out there. Cattle ranches, Poultry farms etc. What did you think of the mountains?. I find it amazing when friends of mine come out from the south and east coast and realize what they have been looking at and calling mountains are not mountains at all but actually hills. Glad to hear the overall trip to this point in the journey has gone well.

  8. #8
    Bernard Guest


    Tukwila it was, then . . .

    I was thrilled by the mountains, and disappointed we couldn't go over the Sierras. We wanted to go east from Washington to Virginia to attend an event my daughter was hosting there, but the night before we would have set out east a lot of snow fell in Montana, and I was loath to drive "the four-wheeled blimp" with no power brakes or steering and with recirculating ball steering and bias ply tires through 11,000-foot passes with snow and ice . . . so we headed south instead. My son and I once did every mile of the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway on motorcycles . . the vistas we did get going down I-5 were often as dramatic.

  9. #9
    Bernard Guest


    Harley Earle (Dee so named it; I was inclined toward "Molasses" because of its deep maroon color and another obvious reason) did well climing the I-5 grades that Tuesday. I'd run at the bottom of the long upward grades at 70 (indicated 58) when I could; I don't think we ever dropped below an indicated 45. Still I'm thankful we didn't have to stop and restart on one of the climbs. We'd probably still be strugging to get up to speed.

    And by Tuesday afternoon my teenage-era driving responses were coming back--not better reaction times, but improving instinct at "reading" the road feel and twitching the wheel the right way the right amount in anticipation of Harley's next lurch. I began to relax somewhat. Life became better.

    My notes: "Temp needle staying at the bottom of normal range on upgrades; oil pressure gauge three needle-widths past vertical [normal]; light charging."

    Dee's notes: "Colors are much jore brilliant than in the south. Flowers, trees, and shrubs, daffodils, johquils growing wild along interstate. Lots of sheep in Oregon. The young lambs are precious, some frisky, others content to stay by mother's side."

    You can see we have different perspectives . . . there were lambs?

    Dee's note: "They pump your gas in Oregon."

    From my mechanical log: [Tigard, OR] 135 miles driven, 10.6 gallons, 12.7 mpg (by odometer--14.6 actual) .5 quart low This was the poorest gas mileage we recorded the whole trip.

    And here I see in Dee's notes that (per my figures from the 5-mile odometer test range in Oregon) that actual mileage is 1.27 the odometer's reading, not the 1.2 I posted earlier. Based on that, our 12.7 mpg was 16.1 actual. Now I'm suspicious. I'll have to pay attention to other recorded data later in the trip.

    At 3:25 p.m. Tuesday we crested the highest point on I-5, 4310 feet, about 280 or so miles north of Sacramento, California (no notes about Oregon cities in Dee's notes here). It was drizzling and misty; traffic was heavy; I almost didn't see the sign and surely didn't see much of view from the crest, which was buried in a cut in the mountains, if my memory is correct. One of these trips I'm going to have to go as a passanager (of a very competant driver).

    Not long after the crest we pulled off at an observation point, with Mt. Shasta in the far distance. It's 14,162-foot-high peak was shrouded in a cloud and veiled by a rainstorm just on our side of it, but it was still impressive. Unfortunately, I don't think it photographed well. I did get some decent shots of Harley Earle and a goodly share of road grime.

    We got a few flakes of snow at 4:42. It had been 43 years since I'd driven in snow, and I wasn't sure it was snow. Dee, raised in Michigan, excitedly pronounced it so. By 4:48, her notes say, we were "back to rain."

    We had planned to detour eastward from I-5 to see Crater Lake and then visit a friend in Klamath Falls. But the friend called and warned us off, saying snow was forecast for the pass on Oregon 58, and more snow was due the next day. "Stay on I-5 and go as fast as you can," he said. "You need to be out of the mountains before the snow falls." He also said, with ominous voice, that Oregon requires cars to carry snow chains. I think there are some qualifications to that, but for sure we didn't have any, or studs, or even all-weather tires. We went as fast as we could straigt down I-5. We stopped for gas at Roseburg, OR (15.1 mpg by odometer, 18.75 if the 1.27 correction is correct) and Redding, California (12.9 by odo, 16.4 corrected, and a quart of oil for 575 miles/quart).

    We made 479 miles that day, and had no mechanical problems except for two momentary power losses--a mystery to unfold. A good day indeed.

    Coming: "disjointed chicken," the cause of the power losses, and stunningly beautiful Bakersfield, CA . . . .

  10. #10
    Bernard Guest


    Tuesday night, at Dunnigan, California, we ate at a glorified truck stop restaurant across from the Best Value Inn. The menu was limited. One choice was Southern fried chicken, aka "Disjointed Chicken." That amused Dee. I told the waitress I'd have the dismembered chicken. She didn't even blink. I don't think she comprehended the subtle differences between "disjointed" and "dismembered." But as a native of Mobile, Alabama, and a life-long resident of The South, I can tell you their dismembered chicken was a far cry from "southern fried"--a far, pitiful, mournful cry.

    Some time on Tuesday, I think it was, I noticed something about the way other drivers related to Harley Earle. They were very considerate. If I used the blinker to indicate a lane change, the car behind me in the lane I wanted to use would immediatley slow. We were never tailgaited until we got onto I-10 and amidst Dixie morons, but they're off in the future at this point. I have to assume the courtesy shown old Harley is the equivalent of holding restaurant and store doors open for suffling old people and smiling benignly at them as they crawl past. I'm not sure how to regard that.

    Don and Mary told us to count the thumbs-up we'd get. We did. We collected ten raised thumbs, plus a bunch of enthusiastic waves--and this doesn't count the people who walked up for a look-see or to deliver a compliment every time we stopped for gas and at most restaurants.

    We identified three types of rubber-neckers. First we experienced the gregarious, openly enthusiastic type. They'd honk and raise a thumb, and go buy grinning like idiots. Then we became aware of the subtle rubber-neckers. They'd overtake from behind, hang in the blind spot for a half-mile, then slowly pass, looking at us as they did but not smiling, waving, or even nodding. And then there were the stealth rubberneckes. They'd pull up behind us in the other line and hang back like the Subtles, then pull by staring straight ahead as though we didn't exist. I liked the honking, grinnig, thumb-pumping kind best, of course--they gave me the opportunity to honk back. I do love the alto musical tone of those horns---so mellow!

    We got away from the motel at 8:53, again at least an hour behind daily pre-planning, and headed south toward a rendesvous with an intenet frined in Sacramento. The morning's travels were mechanically uneventful. Dee's notes don't record any random enchantments with wildflowers, colors, trees, or vistas.

    We were to meet our friend at the Burger King at the intersection of I-5 and I-80. As we glided into the parking lot, the engine died again, and woudl not restart. We rolled gently into a parking place as though it was planned.

    This time I immediatley knew the cause of the stall: there was no ticking from the electic fuel pump. That was easily traced to a bad connection at the coil, from whence the hot wire lead. Apparently a wrench had chewed it up a little when the coil wire was tightened down, and a few hundred miles of vigration gradully did the rest.

    That was the cause of the mysterious little power loss back in the mountains!

    There is a truck stop across the side street from Burger King, and there I purchased a small needle-nozed vicegrip and a blisterpack of wire terminals, and within five minutes fixed the problem. Stripping the insulation from the wire was the first use I'd made of the Leatherman tool Dee gave me for Christmas three years ago. It made me feel like a reformed sinner.

    The car again ran like a staight-eight needle sewing machine as we headed south from Burger King, full of cholesteral (my favorite food group) and good memories of our visit with our friend.

    Dee's notes: "375 miles to LA. Flock of whooping cranes! [How does she know? Has she ever seen a whooping crane before?] Seeing large palm trees (dates?)" Whooping cranes AND date palms? I suspect wishful thinking.

    At 1:30, at the Wesley/Modesto exit, we pulled in to a filling station/convenience store to empty one set of tanks and fill another. 216 miles by the odometer, 16.7 gallons, 12.9 mpg indicated, and 16.4 actual. Not too shabby. The oil was down, but not by a full quart. Gas was expensive--$2.49.9

    At 2:12 we pulled off and climbed a very steep ramp to a vista point overlooking the San Juaquin Valley and the California Aquaduct. I took more pictures of Dee and Harley. I also tinkled behind a wood fence, repaying the rent on a bottle of that new alleged energy drink by Coca Cola, protected from view from valley farms only by distance. Why in the hell aren't there portapotties, at least, where the State of California tempts travelers to get out of their cars and subject their bladders to the ful effect of gravity? Arnold, are you listening?

    At 4:30 we left I-5, turning off onto the exit ramp for State Highway 58, headed for Barstow.

    Barstow! An old wild west name for sure, with the name itself sounding exciting. We'd given up Billings and Butte; Barstow and Needles and Las Cruces would replace them as spurs for our imaginatins.

    But before we got to Barstow, we had to pass through Bakersfield. My very dear friend who lives there as a professor of religious studies at the University of California told me long ago it was an ugly city. Stafford is always a supurbly well-bread gentleman, and he gave Bakersfield the full credible license of charity in calling it "ugly." If it may be judged by comparison of what is along its highway compared to what is along I-5 anywhere else, it is one gawd-aweful ugly place. I'm not hampered by Stafford's degree of good breeding. Surely the Bakersfield Beautification Society could at least plant a lot of mesquite trees along the rights-of-way, or something . . . .

    We made Bartow at 9:30 p.m.. We'd been on the road, with two signficant stops, for twelve-and-a-half hours, and had covered 408 miles. <sigh> We'll have to do better tomorrow.

    A quart of oil went in at a fuel stop just before Barstow--487 miles to a quart. Harley doesn't smoke in the least, but there was a lot of still-yellow oil on the valve cover below and behind the breahter cap. Will some of you engine gurus comment?

    Next: The Mojave Desert, "Death Valley" for the fuel pump, the only rude @#@@$^#$ we met on the whole trip--and snow.

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