A long Journey In Progress

A Modern Adventure Begins

At last, I’ve caught my breath and had a few long naps…

The Story starts a couple of weeks back. On a Monday, I put the spouse on a plane to Chicago. I was to drive out over 5 days or so, taking my time and spending nights in hotels along the way. Didn’t happen.

The Banana Boat ( Old Yellow Mercedes Wagon ) was in the shop from the last return trip from Florida. Brakes, tune-up, valve seals (it was smoking off the line…), etc. After about $2000 worth it was supposed to be ready to go. I went by to pick it up. Running was rough…

After about a day, it was running OK, but on the drive home that night in the cold air, the rough / sputter returned. 8 AM Tuesday, back at the shop… Eventually they found a couple of vacuum lines that were off / leaking. Fixing that then needed re-timing and resetting the points (it’s a very old gas engine with points and carburettor). OK, finally back home at about 7 PM (4 to 7 spent waiting for Silicon Valley Rush Hour traffic to clear enough to let me go home…) I had a 2 hour nap, then started loading the car.

On The Road Again…

The bottom line is that I was “on the road” at just about midnight. Having had about 4 hours sleep the night before (helped a friend home from the airport and picked up the car for that late cold drive before the return the next morning). So all up about 6 hours sleep including the nap. The sleep budget becomes ever more important over this trip…

Headed out, snow was “an issue” on the direct route via I-80 and the more indirect route via I-70 to I-80. Open were I-40 and I-10. I chose I-40 despite the 6 hour or so time cost added. Through the long cold night down the Central California Valley, the car was mostly OK, but acted up on some gas that was, IMHO, not quite up to Super Octane spec. Adding octane booster helped, when I could get it. Choosing better gas stations helped too. (Likely the timing is set ‘to spec’ for the 1970s and that was when gas had more octane in the Super… and less alcohol leanness).

Climbing up to Arizona, Flagstaff was cold. Snow along the sides of the road, but the road was clear. It stayed cold across New Mexico and on into Oklahoma. Somewhere around Friday 3 PM I was in Missouri. (Yes, that’s about 36 elapsed hours from departure as a rough guess…) I’d ‘cat napped’ a couple of hours as needed. The cold would wake me up after about an hour+, even with a good cover.

Then the car began to sound like a drag racer.

Inspection showed the exhaust pipe cracked off of the stub out of the header pipes. (There’s a side bar here: I stopped to look, cell phone in hand, then in the car could not find my cell phone. The bluetooth headset still connected, barely, so I thought it was in the car. Later, about 100 miles down the road, I thought maybe I’d left it in the engine compartment. A check showed it nicely held between the air cleaner and the foam liner of the hood… But I’d made a few calls on it by then ;-)

Long story short: Checking with 5 different shops along I-44 in Missouri was no-joy on muffler / pipe repair. One had no welder. One had a welder, but the guy who knew how to use it was off early. 3 more had a welder, and people who could use it, but wanted to go home at 5 PM and were already busy ( 10 minutes for one weld being too much, I guess…)

So I ended up driving into Chicago on a load of noise, earplugs in, and with poor operation due to the wrong backpressure. About 4 hours out I got the call that labor had begun… 45 minutes apart. About midnight I stopped at a ‘park and ride’ in a stiff cold wind and adjusted the points for better operation on that particular backpressure… and somewhere around 2 AM pulled into the garage to unload the stuff I was delivering. Figured that The Kid, being a parent now, ought to have the dozen boxes of his stuff still in ‘his room’… Plus some other bits and gifts.

At this time, you can figure I was not very “focused”… Got to bed about 3:30 AM, and then up about 8:30 AM for “meet and greet”.

In Chicago

Labor turned out to be not quite the real thing. (Don’t know the details). Bottom line is we had a very nice ‘family dinner’ with her folks, his (my son’s) folks (i.e. me and spouse) and some friends. That night I got a decent night sleep.

The next day, we went to the Movies. (At least, I think it was the next day, I get a little hazy on the days here ;-) I *think* it was Sunday the 20th. So up about 8 AM, all day doing things, off to The Movies. Star Wars… We watch the whole movie, including credits, then on standing up, her ‘water broke’ and the gals all ran off to the restroom. That was about 9 PM. Off to The Hospital.

Now I was all ready to say “OK, we’ve got time to go home for a nice long nap before anything gets going” as she was 3 cm and “it takes time” from there. But No. Everyone was set to stay “up” as long as it took…

About 24 hours of trying to nap in a hospital waiting room later…

I’d explored their fine cafeteria, had coffee from their in house Starbucks (that closes at 7 pm… unclear on the major use of coffee at night…) and generally found that sleep was not possible in a semi-comfortable chair.

Cutting to the end…

After dilating to 9 cm and starting to push, the fetal heart rate dropped on each push. C-Section time, and found umbilical around the neck. Fine healthy delivery, but yet more hours in the chairs for us.

At about ‘who knows what’ AM on Dec 22, Miles was born.

Some time after that, I got another full night sleep. 2nd in how many days?…

On the 24th, I found a very good exhaust repair place in Chicago (in the Hispanic part, the city is 40% or so Hispanic now) and in about 10 minutes and for $30 had the exhaust welded. Car was once again my friend.

Somewhere around the 24 th, they all came home. We had a Christmas event with opening presents and all (and I got to sleep my 3rd? night out of 10 or so…) and all was pretty good.

Saturday was when the spouse was supposed to fly home. We got up at about 5:30 AM ( and I think I’d had about 7? hours of sleep) and there is a loud ‘thump’ from the bathroom. The spouse had sat down on the toilette due to feeling dizzy and then from that low position fainted.

Another “long story short” after a rapid assessment / differential it was down to ‘something with the pulse’ and both head / stroke issues and any neck issues were ruled out. Doing a heart-attack vs ‘other’ differential on her without an EKG was not possible, and women have variable heart attack symptoms, so it was Ambulance Time.

A nice 4? hours were spent in the ER, where the EKG was normal, the Cat Scan showed nothing (confirming the head injury differential) and the doctor gave her an antihistamine on the presumption it was vertigo related to that (which I didn’t quite follow how…) He did ask if the spouse was ‘anemic’ and she replied that she was, a little. That “a little” ought to have been explored more…

With an official “OK to fly” from the Doctor, it was back at the house and I’m madly carting luggage up and down 3 stores of walk-up stairs. (The other ‘grandma’ had come back from a brief excursion, so I brought her luggage up while taking ours down). At about 3 PM, we headed out for the airport and a bit of city tour.

Spouse was starting to feel a bit dizzy again, and I guessed it might be that the pill she was given was wearing off and we’d not had the prescription filled yet; or that Something Else might be going on. Having Kaiser, it’s a royal pain to be hospitalized out of a Kaiser Area, and it was about a 4 hour car ride back to the hospital, or a 5 hour plane flight to Kaiser Land. We opted for “air transport”.

That was likely a very good thing. At the other end, she was having trouble getting into a wheel chair, so the 2nd ambulance ride of the day followed. (Short form: Gastric or esophageal very tiny bleeder of some sort, that stopped bleeding before they could cauterize it or even find it really.) A couple of days later and with really low red blood count starting to recover, she was out of the hospital and home with friends.

Back At On The Road Again, Again

I’d gotten a snack at the airport and pointed the car south.

It was “unclear” if I’d go home or to Florida (to see friends) and phone calls during the trip were to determine that via spouse status, along with weather reports.

Normally I check the Hazards & Warnings map before leaving, but the events of the day had sucked up that time. The prior day had shown Goliath (named storm by The Weather Channel) heading in, and prior day hazard map showed snow on the northern route, rain in the middle of the mid-west and into the Appalachians, and a sort of clear path due south to I-10 and New Orleans, where a right / left turn decision could be made (though with a distance cost of about 600 miles). I was headed that way, expecting to make a choice after seeing newer weather news at some stop or other (either Truck Stop TV or Starbucks WiFi or…) and a phone status on the spouse.

Well, that didn’t happen.

The Car decided on Florida.

I pointed to the diagonal shortest path through the rain front.

About the end of Illinois, the exhaust noise returned, along with poor operation. Inspection of the pipes showed a different break spot. I likely need to replace the whole pipe, but this one is up near the manifold, so I’ll find out ‘in a few days’ if it is terminal for the car, or just a quick repair. Very few people in Florida work on cars from the 70s. Few of them will work on a Mercedes. I have a “choice of one” at the moment…

After a half dozen ‘tweaks’ at gas stops with mileage as low as 10 MPG, I got the points right and it went back up nearer to 20 something. Smoother operation even with wrong backpressure and a better drive on in to Orlando. It was having marginal / hard starts when cooled down, so letting it go fully cold in a hotel for the night was not an ideal solution, nor waking up everyone IN the hotel when parking / starting, so it was another marathon drive on the cards. Cat naps of very short duration only.

So a quick “run to safety” was the order of the day. Good thing, too, as Goliath not only dumped snow all over the norther routes, and dropped temps to the negatives, it also put 10 inches or so down near El Paso Texas and closed the airport across the freeway in Ciudad Juarez Mexico (they do get snow in Mexico, just not often enough to close the airport).

So with flooding rain filling in behind me, and show / freeze / high wind blocking the approach to the West Coast, and a car on the margin, Florida it was to be.

Driving through the night and all the following day had me go through the frontal zone in / near the Appalachians in Kentucky or Tennessee. It was night, and dark and raining. Then it turned to “Rain Of Biblical Proportions”. Now I’m very experienced in rain and fog. I grew up in “tulle fog” in the Central Valley. I’m not bashful about doing 30 mph being able to only see the tail lights in front of you (NOT the vehicle) and bits of the line next to you. This was like that for about 2 miles, then we were suddenly crossing a bridge that I could barely see (steel work to the side of me and above) and it got worse…

Crawling at about 10? MPH, an exit sign showed up on the other side of the bridge. The truck in front of me headed that way, to my relief, as I was not looking forward to taking that exit without a pilot car… I curled around and entered a gas station, stopping under the overhang. I stayed in the car for a good 10 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. Yes, I was under the overhang, but there was significant wind spray and a inch or so of ‘runoff’ crossing the pad.

After a nice 1/2 hour at the gas station, breakfast of a home made style biscuit with real ham chunks on it (clearly a rural operation ;-) and a full tank, it was back onto the road in much lighter rain as the front was past (and headed to behind me).

After an all-day Sunday drive, I arrived in Florida at just before midnight. For those keeping track, that’s roughly 36 hours (some day I’ll look at receipts and things and adjust for time zones and…)

My third Marathon No-Sleep-Just-Nap in 2 weeks. At most, 4 nights sleep spread over 14 or so days.

The Florida Haven

Needless to say, I’ve been sleeping a lot since then and I’m exceedingly grateful to My Florida Friend for providing a guest room and parking space. The weather here has been great, BTW. He has been fuming a bit about the weather reporter (Weather Channel?) saying folks were “braving the record heat” here. It was about 84 F that day, and perfect. Folks in short playing outside, washing cars, having a great time.

Beats the pants off of snow and sleet in Chicago.

Beats the pants off of “below zero” in the Rockies.

Beats the pants off “rain of biblical proportions” in the Midwest Cornbelt and Mississippi Drainage basin.

Beats the pants off “feet of snow and interstate closed” in the passes between east and west and on down into Mexico.

Frankly, it’s been “incredibly perfect” and I’ll happily “brave” it any time ;-)

Though today is back to a more regular winter pattern with about 60s to low 70s and overcast. No pool time for me today ;-) as it is solar heated and not warm on days like this. Not cold either, but I like it warm… Maybe we’ll do the hot tub instead ;-)

Oh, and a bit later I’ll find and put up the link to the article about how when the Gulf Stream slows down and cooling is happening (and Europe going into a Little Ice Age or a real one…) Florida gets more “summer pattern” weather. That it’s been warmer in Florida than the last 30 years is direct evidence for a cold regime starting. (Peer reviewed paper, too… with pollen from lake sediments and such.)

The Future Is Cloudy

After finding out I have a “choice of one” to fix the car and he’s on vacation until next week, I decided not to drive to California just now. The Florida Friend is lending me some garage space, and I’m renting a room here.

Flights back were screwed up by the storm, and they were 100% booked on my airlines of choice for a good 5 days with “get out of town after the holiday” traffic and rebookings post storm and airplane repositions and… I’ve booked a flight for 6 days out…

Some time after I’ve caught things up on that end, it will be a return trip here “for a while” to sort out more things, decide what to do about cars among them, and look for a ‘gig’ here. I’m having increased allergic reactions to “something” on the California end, and it looks like being “bi-coastal” is tilted toward “Florida First”. That’s a very large ‘chunk of work’ to get done, so expect a long slow slog through it. “Someday”. (Right now I’m just too drained to ponder it much…)

In Conclusion / Starting Here Forward

So that’s why postings have been ‘slim at best’. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised / impressed I’m still able to do that kind of “marathon of marathons”, but I’d really rather never do it again.

Next time I’m flying to Chicago and any remaining “stuff” can go UPS ;-)

Either that, or I need a newer car ;-)

Hopefully I’ll get the Florida Stuff done (car needs registration renewal- it’s the Florida Car and is supposed to be here anyway and has Florida tags as one example) and have enough time left over to both pack for the flight AND do some R&D / Postings.

I do have a lot ‘in queue’, just still feeling a bit ‘thrashed and had’ when thinking about spending 4 to 6 hours at a desk / keyboard instead of with a beer by the pool or a bag of chips dozing on the sofa…

Yet energy levels are almost back up to normal. So it is time to ‘start loading up the processor’ again.

Thank you all for ‘hanging in there’ and keeping yourselves entertained with comments during this time. I’ve looked at some of the ‘tips’ links, for example. Interesting stuff.

With that, I’m going to grab some chips and dip and hit the couch for some Big Screen American Football and ponder more “braving” of the weather here… I need to find my pool shoes and suit…


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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to A long Journey In Progress

  1. omanuel says:

    Thanks for reestablishing contact . Between games, you may enjoy Professor Nils-Axel Mörner’s paper entitled: The New Religion of Global Warming and its Misconception in Science.”

    Click to access JBL-1-001.pdf

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    Enforced vacation in Florida in January! OMG life can be tough;-) Sounds like you really need the down time. We hope your XYL is doing better as well.
    Next series of winter storms are due here in northern California, could be 2 weeks of unpleasant weather..
    Sounds like the exhaust system of the car needs complete replacement. Once they start to go patching is a waste of time and money due to rust and old metal fatigue…pg

  3. gallopingcamel says:

    It is great to know that our beloved Chiefio is OK although suffering more than his fair share of “Slings and Arrows”.
    Chiefio’s saga reminded me of Peter Ustinov’s saga about the “Barrel of Bricks” which has been brought up to date here:

  4. Power Grab says:

    Good to know you’re safe in the warmest part of the country. I hope the young’un and the mom are doing well. :-)

    I have had trouble wrapping my head around that Goliath storm thingie. We had a couple of inches of rain over 2 days, along with a small amount of sleet. IIRC, we were supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow (probably on top of 1/4 inch of ice or ?), but we apparently dodged that bullet. I didn’t even wear boots when I left the house on Sunday. Of course, my loafers got really wet and cold, but that’ll show me! I didn’t even have to work hard to clear the car windows. I had run an errand on the first day and squeegeed off the sleet from both cars when I got home, so I never even had enough accumulation to worry about it. I think there were lots of power outages a couple of counties over, but we had no trouble like that.

    Today I heard reports from people who went to Missouri last weekend and had to deal with 9 inches of rain.

    The family members I usually spend the holidays with did their traveling a week early because of how their leave was scheduled. And because they were working while I was off, I didn’t make the trip to their place. I always have trouble keeping track of what day it is or what the rest of the world is doing when I am on vacation!

    I hope your mechanic is able to get the job done right! Do most owners of classic cars end up doing the work themselves?

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    Nice to hear you are recovering in the sun and have all those issues either under control or a plan in place. Good to see you posting but no push to get you back to your normal commentary, time for a little R&R time it sounds like to me. I’ve done those marathon drives myself (not quite as long but long enough) Ended up with a fried alternator in the south side of Chicago once at 2:00 am and snow bound for 3 days in Rock springs another, and broke down on the side of the road in middle of no where Wyo another. That one was preceded by terrible gas mileage also, ended up being a loose connection on the ignition in the distributor, but did not find that out until after a 400 mile tow from a friend back home.

    Those adventures make being “home” really nice place to be.

    Cheers to you and the family hope all are now doing well.

  6. There are some machine-shops in the UK at least that make new exhaust systems from scratch for classic cars where such parts are no longer available off-the-shelf. There may still be such places in the States and, if you think the car is worth keeping, a stainless exhaust would save money over a decade or so. Yep, it’s a long-term investment. Otherwise, welding it up and adding strengthening beads at the stress points (sharper bends) will add a bit more life to the one you’ve got – the incipient fatigue fractures get annealed. One of those jobs where a small arc welding machine pays for itself, or alternatively it’s worth owing a favour to someone who has one and is maybe more in practice.

    Apart from that it looks like enough adventures for a while. They’re good for stories but not good to live through.

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith added aside about exhaust system. If you continue to have cracked or broken joints near the engine. Check the engine mounts. Loose or broken engine mounts will cause excessive torque on the exhaust pipe. Older vehicles often develop this problem and it is not obvious as gravity holds everything together at rest or idle. Only under power does that side lift and torque the pipe. Generally that is also the side of the exhaust pipe from the engine aft…pg

  8. Ralph B says:

    Glad to hear wife, daughter and grandchild are fine. Also glad to hear you are back in the Sunshine State (my state of residence).

    I can understand keeping a gasser that uses points…EMP and Carrington Event proof, but you should “upgrade” to a diesel Mercedes. I have seen several older style Mercs in great shape around. Diesel stores better than gas and you can use it in your butterfly stove as well.

  9. ralfellis says:

    Re: Modulation of Ice Ages via Precession and Dust-Albedo Feedbacks

    A new paper proving that CO2 is a minor player in the drama that is the Earth’s climate.


    We present here a simple and novel proposal for the modulation and rhythm of ice ages and interglacials during the late Pleistocene. While the standard Milankovitch-precession theory fails to explain the long intervals between interglacials, these can be accounted for by a novel forcing and feedback system involving CO2, dust and albedo. During the glacial period, the high albedo of the northern ice sheets drives down global temperatures and CO2 concentrations, despite subsequent precessional forcing maxima. Over the following millennia CO2 is sequestered in the oceans and atmospheric concentrations eventually reach a critical minima of about 200 ppm, which causes a die-back of temperate and boreal forests and grasslands, especially at high altitude. The ensuing soil erosion generates dust storms, resulting in increased dust deposition and lower albedo on the northern ice sheets. As northern hemisphere insolation increases during the next Milankovitch cycle, the dust-laden ice-sheets absorb considerably more insolation and undergo rapid melting, which forces the climate into an interglacial period. The proposed mechanism is simple, robust, and comprehensive in its scope, and its key elements are well supported by empirical evidence.


    Ralph Ellis

  10. tom0mason says:

    Sounds like a tough start to the year.
    Here, sit down, feet up, glass in hand and listen….

    Have a happy a prosperous New Year to you and yours!

  11. R. de Haan says:

    Wishing you and your family all the best for the New Year.

    If I can help you with car parts for your MB, I am in Germany and have many resources.

    Ever thought about installing a modern electronic engine management system with fuel injection in your car and get rid of the carburators?

  12. Glenn999 says:

    Sounds like one hell of a trip, but I’m glad you’re safe and rested. Years ago I quit driving my own vehicles during cross country trips, and opt for the luxury of big and powerful and most importantly NEW.
    I’m one of those braving the Florida lack of winter this year, but hopefully things will change for the better.
    And to All, Happy and Prosperous New Year!

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    And…. now I’m home…

    Some minor excitement there, too. The prior night, the car of my Florida Friend wouldn’t start… So the next morning we were up at about 5:30 AM. A “jump” had started it the night before, but we didn’t know for sure it was the battery. Would it start? Or would we be driving the Banana Boat sans muffler to the airport?

    It did start, and the morning went into getting a new battery installed. Autozone did a fine job of testing it and replacing it on the spot with zero wait time.

    So off to the airport. My flight left about 5:30 PM. The astute reader will recognize that as a full 12 hours after wake up time….

    An uneventful flight into San Diego where it was raining pretty good just before landing (but not IN San Diego for the actual landing). Then about 9 PM a flight up to the San Francisco Bay Area which is also cold, damp, and a bit miserable. (We’re presently having one of those “Flooding Droughts” like we saw earlier in Texas… Over 100% of snowpack and precipitation, but still called “a drought” due to the way they calculate it in the Palmer Drought Index via ‘adjusting’ precipitation via the buggered temperatures…)

    At any rate, got to bed about 1 AM. Which is about 4 AM Eastern. Or about 22-23 hours after I got up… So a sort of a ‘mini-marathon’ of sleeplessness…

    But now I’ve gotten up at the crack of noon-Eastern and I’m SOOO happy to have a real keyboard and computer in hand again…. Along with a desk to put it on and a chair I like and…

    Today will be spent “decompressing” from a much longer than expected road trip and getting the house in order (and mostly that means my office and garden neatened up a bit). Oh, and reloading the ‘Fridge with my favorites ;-)

    I ought to be ready to do a couple of postings sometime tonight.

    With that, on to the next adventure!

  14. Pouncer says:

    “With that, on to the next adventure!”

    Happy to hear you’re home safe. Relax a while.

    Any thoughts about clustering old Android tablets or cellphones into a parallel processing system? In my experience with TracFone, I’ve gotten into the habit of upgrading annually. (It costs about the same to get a new device AND a year’s pre-paid service as it would to get a “refill card” with a year’s service, so why not get a smarter phone?) I anticipate that although you demonstrate great frugality you may come to similar conclusions — this provided you don’t use any cell service very much. So you might, going forward into burner phone territory, wind up in fairly short order with as many smart phones lying around as you now have old PCs. If you knew, now, that there would be a potential use for that equipment would it affect your buying decisions now?

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