The story left off at the end of day #4 with the car now overheating as well as leaking oil.
Day #5 Ludlow, CA to Oakland, CA
Distance = 452 miles
Another early start had me on the road by 6:30 am, but I had barely traveled 30 miles when the temperature gauge hit the maximum. Now I really was worried, as apart from constantly topping up the oil and water as I had been doing, I was stumped. So I did the sensible thing: pulled into the next gas station and called Triple A. While I was making the call, water began pouring out of the radiator overflow. Here's the sorry site of my car while I waited for help to arrive...
...and here's the even sorrier site of the car being winched onto a tow truck for the second time in my four days of ownership. Fortunately it was very early in the morning and I was still reasonably confident that I would make it home to Oakland by nightfall.
This is my version of the obligatory "mustang in the mirror" shot...can't remember seeing one of these taken in a tow truck mirror before.
A few more miles down the road - as luck would have it in the direction I was traveling - and I found myself at Barstow Tire and Brake. I was lucky it was Monday morning by this time; on a Sunday I would have been stranded. But Monday morning is also the busiest time of the week for the repair shop, and the guys were up to their eyeballs in work.
To be fair the shop manager, he was straight up with me and promised "if it's something simple, you'll be back on the road before lunch, but if it's major you won't be." There followed a nervous few hours while I alternated between sitting in the waiting room and pacing about the forecourt. I would have stayed outside the whole time, but the morning sun was absolutely baking hot, so I snapped the photo below before finally retreating back inside. Eventually, after the mechanic changed some
hoses, replaced the thermostat and the temperature sender unit and reshaped the radiator-to-hose connection (it was badly bent apparently), I was ready to hit the road again. The mechanic suggested I drive at 60 mph, or better still travel at night, to prevent overheating, but I was in no mood to hang around any further and just got back on the highway with Bakersfield my next target.
The scenery changed again at this stage - the green of the mid-west was replaced by the yellow of the Mojave desert.
By mid-afternoon I was passing through Bakersfield; only now I was adding a quart of oil every time I filled up with gas. Otherwise the car was running OK with the temperature remaining in the acceptable range and no more discharge from the radiator. Phew! The road between Bakersfield and I5 takes in the small town of Wasco and several farms and Vineyards - what was great about this part of the journey was...I'd done it a couple of years before when I drove out to Las Vegas. It felt fantastic to be on familiar territory after so many days of (personal) trailblazing, and I knew this would be the last day of my drive home.
I've driven up and down I5 a number of times, and it's always the same: right lane moving at about 65 mph and the left lane caning along at 90. I wasn't keen on pushing the Mustang - that would have been asking for trouble - so I stuck mainly in the right lane and watched an endless stream of Chelsea tractors fly past on my left...at least they shielded me from the sun.
By late afternoon I came upon the first San Francisco sign post - Oakland is not a cool enough place to make it onto sign posts until you're right on top of it.
San Francisco 67: This was the last photo I took on the drive as by now I was too focused on just getting home. I managed to successfully negotiate the I5/HWY580 interchange (no mean feat), and after that I was back in civilization. I hit 580 through Livermore in the evening rush hour; this stretch of highway is a notorious traffic hot spot, but on this particular day it was moving fast in spite of being really busy. I really enjoyed weaving the Mustang in and out of the traffic after days of simply pointing it in a straight line.
Another 90 minutes and the car was in my garage, gently dripping/pouring oil onto some carefully positioned piles of newspaper - I didn't have a big enough drip tray to use, as oil was literally dripping off of every part of the motor and engine compartment.
Here's a picture of my left arm taken shortly after I got home. The left side of my neck and face were in similar shape. If I do a road trip like this again I'll take some sun block!
So now what? Well, I had the guys at Classics by Steve change the valve cover gasket, and deal with a few other minor issues, and then a few weeks later I found the time to properly clean and polish up the car. For most of the rest of the summer the Mustang was my occasional driver.
Then, when the rain came around, the car went back into the garage...
It came out again in the Spring, and now I was ready to get some more out of the car, so I joined up with the Bay Area Mustang Association (BAMA). I spent most of May getting the car ready for it's first show, BAMA's Ponies and Snakes. Mainly I was just tarting up the worst bits of the car. I started by replacing the shifter boot - this was a major project for a complete novice, as I was at the time.
I cleaned up the underside of the hood and rattlecan'd on some new paint...
...and I devoted two weekends to cleaning the engine compartment and the interior.
By the time I was done, I thought I might even win a prize at the show...if I'd ever been to a car show before I would never have thought that, but whatever - I'm pretty sure my car came last among over 100 pristine show quality Mustangs (you can see some of them here). After I enjoyed the car for the rest of the summer, I finally plucked up the courage to start properly working on the Mustang myself...and that's where this blog really started when I dived in and changed the oil pan gasket. Later, the project became a full-on restoration, which has just moved into it's second year.
Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoyed the story of how I brought my Mustang home to California as much as I enjoyed finally writing it down! Coming Soon: Mustang Madness - The Movie; shot throughout the drive.