Thursday, December 30, 2010

collection trip part four

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 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.

Sparkling in the sun at Ponies and Snakes 2009
The most important thing in my life (and my son!)

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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

collection trip part three

The story left off at the end of day #3 with the car still running in spite of a rather worrying oil leak.

Day #4 Grants NM to Ludlow, CA.
Distance = 547 miles

The morning of day #4, and I was back on the road really early. Within ninety minutes I was across the state line into Arizona, and the scenery started to change from flat lands to a series of valleys and gorges. Before the trip began I had considered making some stops to check out landmarks along the way - the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, etc - but after a couple of days in the saddle all I cared about was getting home as soon as possible.

Most of the day was spend with my eyes flitting between the road ahead and the temperature gauge. Every time I stopped for gas I was adding a pint of oil, and just hoping for the best - oil was splashed all over the top of the valve cover and everywhere else by this time; I was trying not to think about the trail of oil I was leaving along the highway! Just past Kingman I saw the first signpost for LA - it felt great to be approaching California even if I was still a day and a half away from home. 

An hour later and I was through needles and into the Golden State....but elation soon turned to despair as the car's temperature gauge started to climb up to max. I stopped at the next gas station to check the oil, but before I could even pop the hood there was a hissing sound and a pool of foul smelling green liquid began to form below the motor. I had no idea what this was, but I knew it was bad news! A little bit of investigation, and I discovered that the radiator was overflowing - I guess it could have been a lot worse. Still, with the car obviously in need of another rest, and the time approaching 6:00 pm - I had been on the road for twelve hours - it seemed like a good time to stop. What made it a perfect time to stop was the old fashioned motel literally across the street from the gas station, so I moved the car over and checked in.

It was completely by chance, but I had actually stopped in Ludlow, CA, or at least the modern version of that town; the original Ludlow lies a few miles away on the original Route 66, and became a ghost town in the 1960's. The modern Ludlow has a fluctuating population of about 20 people and consists of a diner, a gas station and a motel.

I took a walk around at dusk and snapped a bunch of pictures; here's the main thoroughfare...

...and the "famous" Ludlow Coffee Shop.

The center piece of the "new" Ludlow is a long deserted Fire House, complete with a pair of vehicles that haven't moved in decades.

Remnants of the old fire house surround the motel...

The story continues with the fourth and final part here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

collection trip part two

The story left off at the end of day #2, with the mustang having made it through the first 251 miles of the homeward journey without a serious problem...apart from a very tired driver.

Day #3 Erick, OK to Grants NM
Distance = 475 miles

Next morning, I was on the road just after 6:00 am. It would have been sooner, but I was waiting for the free breakfast in the motel (once a cheapskate, always a cheapskate...). It was actually a great time of day to be on the road. The sun was coming up through the mist, and in minutes I was passing the border town of Texola.

A few hundred yards further and I was into Texas. I planned to stop for gas and a big breakfast in Armarillo, which I got to about 9:30 and ended up in a very busy Denny's (it was Saturday morning).

The next photo is still one of my favorite pictures I took during the trip - a perfect view of the sky above a red steering wheel - what could be better?

Passing through Albuquerque was a big mile stone on my trip. It was mid-afternoon and I was making excellent progress...until I noticed that the temperature gauge was climbing very high. I tried running the car at 80 mph to see if this would cool things down, but it didn't make much difference, so pulled into a rest area and checked the oil...oh dear...not only was the oil level dangerously low, but the dipstick was really, really hot and I noticed I had a fairly major oil leak. There was oil all over the motor and the underside of the hood, and there was a steady drip onto the pavement down below - it later transpired that the oil pan and valve cover gaskets were shot, but I didn't know that then. Not sure what to do, I eventually decided to limp on to the next gas station where I could top up the oil - it needed several quarts to get up to the high line on the dipstick.

The new oil certainly helped cool down the engine, but by now I was starting to feel driving fatigue again; Driving any vehicle for ten hours straight is tiring, but the Mustang was really tough to handle - the steering was really loose, so I was constantly fighting to keep the car moving in a straight line, and the stock seat was killing my back. I was also starting to feel the pain of sunburn on my left side (arm, neck, etc), so I started to think about finding a motel. The next major city on the road was Grants, NM, so I did myself a favor and checked in to the Comfort Inn for some much needed recuperation. Giving the car a good few hours to properly cool down seemed very sensible at this point too.

Read part three of the story here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

collection trip part one

The (long) story of how my mustang arrived home in August 2008.

Day #1 Oakland, CA to Tulsa, OK via Kansas City MO.
Distance = 2072 miles

Although I officially bought my car in Kansas, I actually picked it up in Tulsa, OK as this was the most convenient major airport for the seller. All I can remember about my flight out from Oakland is that I nearly missed my connection after the flight into Missouri was delayed - fortunately I only had hand luggage on this trip!

I first saw the car in the parking lot at Super8 in Tulsa. I'd like to say I did a thorough inspection, but as it was already dark I just poked about at the bodywork and hoped for the best. There was a last minute reduction in the sale price when I discovered the alternator was bad - the battery had run down on the journey to Tulsa, and although we managed to start the car and take it for  a short drive, I was mainly focused on getting to bed.

Day #2 Tulsa, OK to Erick, OK.
Distance = 251 miles

Next morning the car was still there, so that was a definite bonus...

I called Triple A and got a tow to Mingo Automotive in Tulsa for a new alternator. I hadn't anticipated the first few miles of my epic journey being on the back of a was a rather inauspicious start.

I have to say that the guys at Mingo were great - they started work on the car almost immediately and they even broke their strict "no customers in the workshop" rule so I could take the photo below.

With a couple of hours to kill while I waited for the car to be revived I wandered up and down Mingo Road. There wasn't much to see, but I did spot another mustang in the yard behind the workshop - I'm glad I didn't buy this one!

Just after 11:00 am I got on the road. Phew, finally underway and heading west towards Oklahoma CIty.

I took a lot of pictures of road signs during this trip - there wasn't that much else to look at to be honest. I think this is the first one I saw with numbers on.

I've always loved the next picture; it was taken at one of the first of many gas stops I made, but it is also the first picture I took of the car it the sunshine.

Passing the exit for Mustang Road was strange - at the time it felt like some kind of omen, as I'd never heard of the place before...of course it was really just a coincidence. Close by was the exit for Garth Brooks Blvd, which I found amusing...and still do.

Amarillo 186 miles - I think this is when it really hit me how far I had to drive the Mustang, and how long it was going to take.

By 4:30 pm I was starting to feel really tired, with the enormity of the journey before me only too apparent. I had initially intended to drive until well into the night, but it was becoming apparent that what I really needed was a rest and some sleep. Having made this decision I took the next exit off the Interstate, which just happened to be Erick, OK, and looked for a motel. By 6:00 pm I was eating a take out pizza and preparing to get my head down for some much needed rest. The first day in the saddle had been fun, but incredibly tiring.

The story continues with part two here.