2 Weeks On – My Trip Of Endurance

Well, it’s been 2 weeks since I packed up the car and headed out of Florida. I had not expected it to be quite the Endurance Test that it was.

This trip was supposed to be more leisurely than most of my mad dashes. I’ve done the cross country drive more times than I can count. A few as a kid. A couple while in college (one around the entire perimeter of the ‘lower 48’ in a ’67 VW Fastback, complete with one engine overhaul and several roadside repairs, and one in a brand new Honda Accord their first year of manufacture – returned to the dealer a month or two later with something like 5000 miles on it…), and many more since. The Banana Boat alone has done at least a half dozen.

So I’ve seen “fly over country” up close and personal A Lot.

I know Texas from edge to edge every route possible. I-10, I-20, I-40, Diagonal from I-40 to I-20, or vertical down to I-10.

I’ve done I-90 up north, I-70 through Colorado, I-80 a few times. I’ve done I-5 from San Diego to Canada (parts of it hundreds of times, some only a few) and I-95 from Florida to Maine (or Maine to Florida, some both ways…) and a whole lot of crisscrosses in between them. (After a while you start to take diagonals between the main I-x routes just to get some variety). FWIW, the time to take I-10 from Silicon Valley to Orlando is within an hour of the time to take I-40 or I-20, but it bumps up by 4 hours if you take I-80. Yes, I’ve done I-80 to Florida – usually due to weather issues on the other routes. It’s easy to lose 4 hours to a flood or hurricane…

So much of the time I just point the car “that-a-way” and wait for tomorrow. Texas is about 935 miles from El Paso to Louisiana, so it is 1/3 of the trip. West Texas feels more like 1/2 the trip on your 3rd or 4th time through it… THEN you get to tack on the New Mexico, Arizona, and California southern deserts… After a while sand and dirt are not so interesting. The result is that I’ve driven from Silicon Valley to near El Paso in “one day”, slept a bit, then crossed Texas the next. So I know what it takes to do 1/2 the continent in a mad dash. Typically 2 days, or at least 1 1/2 and a hotel / friend stop in the middle and at the end. I’ve also had occasion to make the mad dash the other way. From Orlando to Dallas in 24+ hours non-stop solo (family in Texas needed me to show up…) and from Orlando to Silicon Valley in 56 hours with only one hotel stop (New Mexico) after a phone call for a family medical event in California (though that trip we had 3 drivers in rotation and napping in the car). So yes, I’ve done long duration “butts in seats” too.

What I’d not done is a solo marathon without a stop for a nap as needed. And I had no intention of finding out what that was like, given the above list of experiences. I “had clue” enough.

The Trip Out

I headed out to Florida toward the end of July intending a “3 or 4 week” event of leisurely driving / stopping / sight seeing and visits. I needed to be back by about Aug 15 or so for a family special event. Plenty of time.

The first leg was out via I-5 to I-40 (Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, blip of Texas Panhandle… did I mention I’ve seen Texas edge to edge too many times already? ;-) I can usually do that run very fast. Something like 12 hours to Flagstaff or near it. This time, I’d left about mid day (to avoid rush hour) so got to I-40 about night / nap time. An hour nap in the car (smelling bits of forest fire wafting in from hopefully far far away) at a truck stop in the Mojave and I was ready to press on through the next day to east New Mexico. Arizona and New Mexico along I-40 are very pretty to look at most of the time. A bit desert and bland in other parts.

About 3? in the afternoon in the high desert of New Mexico, I had a tire blow out. It was a rear tire, so not much of an issue to control. Looking at it (shredded having barfed out a ‘tread-a-pillar’ and then the inner-liner let loose) it was clear “has issues”, and a check of the date code showed it to be about 12 years old. Note To Self: Check tire date codes on rarely driven car before long trips… As I usually used The Banana Boat for long trips, and the sedan for ‘around town’, it had not worn the tires much over the years. But the rubber does harden and eventually has a kind of brittle fracture. There is something about the hot high desert of New Mexico that is hard on old tires, especially at 80 MPH… I’d lost a front tire there on the same car about a decade prior. It too had aged out. You would think I’d have remembered… (Well, really, I did remember. I had taken the hubcaps off as that time I’d lost one… but maybe remembering is not the same as learning…) So by the side of the road I got to unload the trunk and put on the spare under a nice warm July sun at the hottest part of the day. An hour or so later I was back on the road and really appreciating air conditioning.

Looking at the tire on the other end of the axle showed it to be the same make and age…

Somewhere near the Texas border I got a hotel for the night. Ah, bed. A very nice and very expensive Best Western. (About $107 for one). But we had ‘gift cards’ for some reason, and I was supposed to use them up. That took one night instead of the expected two…

In Amarillo, I had a replacement spare put on at the first place I found. That was a mistake. (The old Mercedes uses a 14 inch rim and it is hard to find 14 inch tires now. The places I tried in New Mexico said that they could order it in a couple of days…) So at a Sears Auto Center, where I’d gotten good Cooper tires in 14 inch before, they had some brand I’d never heard of ( Radar? R-something) made in China. Cost me $90 all told installed for a crappy no-name Chinese “truck SUV” tire… then about 3 miles down the interstate saw a nice “Discount Tire Store” that has better choices in 14 inch… Ah, the joys of decisions made in fear of another blowout… As it was raining and the folks at Sears had no clue how to start my Diesel nor how to use a stick shift (the Mercedes you pull up for reverse, not push down like American) I asked them to stop trying and just replace the tire on the rim in the trunk and put it back there. Thus continued driving on the other expired tire on the other end of the axle… though the spare I’d put on was Very Nice. Why was it better than what was on the axle? Um, …. I like having a good spare? :-)

Then it was back on the road about 2 PM Central Time…

Somewhere around midnight near the far side of Alabama? it had been raining a fair amount and I was just dead tired. Not much to see in the rain, so I’d just driven. But at the end of, what, 14 or 15 hours?, I was at an end. Motel 6… that was a Motel 6 only in name. Banner hung over some other name, shining through it in the night… $50. For a Motel 6? Originally named for the $6 it cost. Built in inflation gauge, that. I unloaded the car. In the process, I found that the A/C, in the humid East, was extracting a LOT of water from the air. And putting it on the floor of the passenger side. A known issue with old Mercedes in the dry west. Just enough condensate forms to collect dust in the drain, then it dries. Repeat until plugged with adobe concrete… Then in the East, it overflows as it is plugged. A couple of gallons of water sopped up in towels and wrung out… The next day I stopped at WalMart and bought my own cheap towel and a plastic tub (all up about $4) to act as water catcher and sop.

I’d intended to turn north to North Carolina and visit the friend I’d helped move. Last trip out was driving a van of his stuff, then flying back from Florida. Having a car trying to be a swimming pool made that less likely. What happened next ended the idea…

I was somewhere in Georgia and headed down the interstate. Got off at a low usage exit due to a sign saying Diesel! and went about 2 miles down a narrow winding road to a 2 pump gas station… On the way out, pulled over in a wide spot to dump the tub and sop / wring the rest (carpets in trunk slowly drying, it’s easy to mop the metal / painted floor). All done, turn the key — Nothing. Nothing. Get out for a bit of a think… Here I am, middle of nowhere, in a 35 year old Mercedes in a land where “old car” is anything made in the 2000’s and ‘foreign car’ means a Ford Truck made in Canada with the odd metric bits on it…

Now I know this “issue”. This car had about 160,000 miles on it. At about that point, the Diesels tend to have the starter brushes worn down. The Good News? It first fails when hot. Upon cooling, the casing shrinks a bit faster than the rotor and you can start again. The bad news? You get “a few” such starts and the brushes wear a bit more then you don’t get to start again… So right off the bat I know I’m not going to North Carolina for a brief visit. I need to head to Florida so I can complete “my mission” (of dealing with the crap I left there last time) and maybe getting the Banana Boat to drive home. It having been left at a muffler repair place back in December when, returning from Chicago and the birth of the Grandson, it blew out the exhaust pipe near Memphis and it was a lot shorter to Florida than to Silicon Valley… and I’d flown home… but now it was fixed and waiting for me. Part of what I was supposed to ‘deal with’ in Florida.

Have I mentioned that living Bi-Coastal can be a bit complicated at times?

Getting back in the car after about 10 minutes, it started. Oh Boy!

Now I just can’t shut it off until I reach Orlando…

So the nice thing is you can put Diesel into a running Diesel vehicle in safety. No sparks! The bad thing is with only one key, you must leave it unlocked and running as you go into the shop to pay for gas… I used a card at the pump a lot…

About Midnight I got to park the car and turn it off.

I was thinking that 10 hours or so of not turning it off was a lot. Little did I know…

In Orlando

I got done what I’d intended to do. The SLC was “moved on”. (I’d hit a deer with it a couple of years back, and realized I was not going to get it fixed long distance). The Banana Boat was redeemed from the muffler shop. For the next weeks I drove it around Florida. Mulling over the question of: Take IT home without A/C to have a full tune up and AC fixed by the folks here who do work on old cars, or take the sedan home with AC (and a bucket) to have IT fixed? On a couple of occasions I had to move the sedan and it started Just Fine each time. I figured I likely had at least 3 or 4 more “starts” left in it, so decided to take it home. One start to leave, 2 or three at hotels. Try to find hotels with a slope to the parking lot so I can ‘roll start’ if needed…. (Part of why I prefer manual transmission cars. You can do that. And both these are 4 speed manuals).

At any rate, I got my “stuff” cleaned up. Partied a bit with friends I’d not seen in a year. Got the Banana Boat back, and running nicely. Had a Meet and Greet with folks at World Of Beers, and generally had a pretty good time.

Watching the weather reports, it was pretty clear that to be back in time, I’d not want to wait. A tropical depression had been sitting in the Gulf just off the Florida Panhandle dumping rain along the coast. It was likely to come ashore either in the panhandle or up the Gulf Coast. Then a long rain band was projected to run from Chicago to Louisiana dumping a load. No clean path through without weather issues.

The Banana Boat would benefit from a tune up (points and rotor about every cross of the continent – 2500 miles+) and I’d brought the parts, but now time would be tight. Also, driving in humid wet South a working A/C can be important to getting fog off the windows, not just comfort. Then add in that it, too, had a window leaking issue over the passenger foot well.. I wanted to get it back to California for repairs, but it didn’t seem the right time to do it. Fall would be better. The sedan would work better in the wet and rain, and a ‘couple of starts’ would be enough to get home. I decided to load up the sedan. But first I put the new crappy Sears S rated Chinese tire on in place of the aged out old crappy Chinese tire… ( I really strongly prefer the nice Japanese Sumitomo tires that were on the other 3 positions, but they stopped making 14 inch tires for my car. 50 PSI and H rated… yeah, way overklll for a car than can’t hit 90 downhill ;-).

Then do a rapid dash past the rain target before stopping for the night. I set my sights on “edge of Texas”. Then figured a second night somewhere like New Mexico at a hotel on a slope… just in case.

The Marathon Back

It has been two weeks now, since I packed up and headed out, and I’m finally feeling a bit more normal again. My hands and feet still complain at me a bit when put on vibrating surfaces (like a steering wheel or car gas pedal…) and I’m still prone to an afternoon nap. But most of the OMG stress consequences have faded.

I’d set out on what I expected would be a 3 day “mad dash” of 2800 or so miles. Rough, but not anything I hadn’t done before. 2 nights in hotels and plenty of meal / rest stops.

The first day, I left town at 7:35 AM. The car started fine first try. Filled up at the gas station and again, an easy start. OK, I could leave town. Maybe I was just being paranoid about a humidity driven electrical issue or ‘whatever’. It had shown zero issues in a few starts since then, and even this warm start was OK.

I shot up I-75 and over on I-10 (filling with the engine running, no need to press my luck once out of town and running west… away from base and friends). There was modest rain up Florida and a bit across the south near Gulfport, but I was clearly making a clean getaway before the rain came ashore in strength. At 3:30 PM local time I was in Gulfport Mississippi and by 4:12 PM Louisiana. I-12 has a long viaduct (bridge over the marsh / swamp / lots of water) for miles. That’s the main flood area and I wanted past it. At some gas stop near Baton Rouge, I made the mistake of instinctively turning off the engine. OK, call it a feature. I was on “enough” slope to roll start ( I hoped) and this was a chance to hit the bathroom inside, have lunch sitting inside, and add oil. Check air in the tires. Etc. After all that, it started fine, again. I’m beginning to think my worries are for naught…

At about 10:30 PM local time I was at the far side of Louisiana on I-20 (moved up one level) and hit another Motel 6. This one had rooms that smelled way too much of ‘freshener’. Note to Self: Motel 6 is no longer a standard product that is inoffensive. It is now a collection of random things under their brand label. Find a different ‘cheap stop’ choice…

Now usually I carry a spray bottle of vinegar and one of ammonia to ‘decontaminate’ rooms. The thesis is based on a U.S. Military decontamination routine using acid / alkali alternating washes, but I do it with mild acid / base that fully evaporates. Spray one, wait 20 minutes, spray the other, wait 20 minutes, air out the room. Works a champ on things like tobacco smells and such. As tobacco makes me wheeze sneeze and not sleep, this matters. But the need for it has dropped off with increasing availability of non-smoking rooms and better enforcement by hotels. Besides, I can usually “hit the local grocery” if needed. But NOT when trying to minimize starts of the car… and I didn’t have the bottles with me.

I improvised (after not falling asleep…) I had a large bottle of Listerine. It has ‘essential oils’ in it that are reactive. That’s how it kills bacteria. Those oils OUGHT to also react with other things… So I dribbled a few ounces on a towel and walked around the room waving it. Let it hang on a chair and left for a few minutes. On return, aired out the room (or massively raised the humidity ;-) and then turned on the A/C again. That worked ‘well enough’ to get rid of the stink of perfume / ‘freshener’… And an OK night sleep followed. Somewhere around 6 hours later I was back on the road. ( I often don’t sleep well, or much, in hotels). In retrospect, it would have been better to have slept longer…

The car was parked on what I hoped was “enough slope”. I tested it, it wasn’t. But the car did start fine on the starter. OK, clearly I’m overly worried. This is something like a half dozen reliable starts in a row… I head out.

From here, I’d planned to ‘angle up’ to I-40 crossing Texas in a slightly different way from the usual. While the Truck Stops were all about $2.30 to $2.45 for Diesel, I’d learned to spot the Murphy’s signs that indicated a Walmart gas stop. As they let me use my Walmart card at the pump, that was a significant feature. In Wichita Falls. I got Diesel at $1.90.9 / gallon at one of them…

Then I hit Childress Texas.

The car had been getting ‘sluggish’. Having sat for nearly 2 years prior to this trip, then having a load of ‘bio-diesel’ run through it early on (Love’s and some other Truck Stops are now selling a bio-Diesels blend and it is known to loosen crud in old fuel systems) I suspected “stuff” was dissolved loose from the tank and was clogging up the fuel filter, slowly. The usual symptom is that it is all fine at low fuel flow, but at full flow it isn’t full flow… so acceleration and top speed fall off. I was topping out about 75 MPH to 80 MPH. “On the flat” this car ought to get to 85 MPH (wind permitting) and it had done over 85 on occasion on the way out. Though now, being quite full, and with a different unknown efficiency tire on it, it might not be fuel filter. (Type of Diesel didn’t change the performance). I decided, since the starter was behaving, to stop at an auto parts store and change the secondary fuel filter. The primary is a ‘spin on’ like a regular oil filter, and the secondary is a small screen like thing in the line just before the injector pump. 2 screws and you are done. I figured I could do one, and if things improved, maybe do the other at the hotel stop planned for just up the road near Amarillo /New Mexico border (where I knew I could make it home in ‘one shot’ having just done it the other way).

This little farm town no-where didn’t have the filter, but we figured out one that would work. Couple of minutes with a screwdriver, hand pump the built in fuel primer to fill it, and time to start. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. {tap starter with tire iron to loosen brushes if stuck) Nothing. Nothing. Nothing….

It’s about 3 PM, hottest time of the day, and the car has just run non-stop from Louisiana some of it up hill, often full power, with a load. I decide to walk across the street to the Sonic Drive In and drown my sorrows in Ice Tea while enjoying their A/C.

I contemplated things for a while. My Indiana Jones hat on the table. Their Largest Ever Ice Tea slowly slurped… about a pint of ice saved in the cup. Looking out the window at the car, the parking lot, the slope. There just MIGHT be enough slope down the side of the building to roll start. I’d roll back from the door OK (having NOT ‘chosen wisely’ where to park for best roll…) and then have a small push to get it pointed across the front, then ‘enough’ slope to likely make the side and roll start. Maybe I could slip someone a $5 to help push… And I had my pint of ice to cool the starter… After about 45 minutes, I decided to ‘give it a go’ and find out what condition my condition was in.

TAP TAP on the starter again. Close the hood. It starts! Yeayyy!!!

But now I’ve been up and driving about 9 hours, it’s 1/2 a continent to home, and I just can’t chance another non-start. I’ve had 2 that recovered, and MAYBE it would work when cool again, but… to miss the date back home would not be acceptable. No hotel for Mikey tonight…

At about 5:50 Mountain Time I reach New Mexico. Now I’m into this about 12 hours already, and I have a “normal max limit” of drive still ahead of me. Oh, and I can’t shut the car off for a nap, so no vibration free time either. The fuel filter swap has bought a bit more speed, but the primary is likely crapping up a bit too. I need to get 3 or 4 more tanks of fuel through it, that’s all. In Amarillo I’d picked up the proper filters at an Advanced Auto Parts store, so at least I had them if it totally crapped up. So IFF I’m lucky, in about 24 hours I can be done. Let the games begin…

The short form is that crossing New Mexico was easy. About midnight I reached Arizona. There’s where things started getting hard. Some (a lot…) of caffeine and aspirin helped. (Aspirin also to prevent leg vein clots from so much sitting) A few times I’d try a ‘speed nap’. Take an hour and pull off at some no-where exit, often behind an 18 wheeler, and slump over the front seat trying to nap. It’s very hard trying to nap when the engine is still running, the car vibrating, and you can’t move as that risks hitting the shifter into the rotating transmission parts… Eventually, at about sunrise, on the far side of Arizona, I saw an exit with a hill behind it… It was a nearly instant dirt road off of the pavement stub, but it was a hill. I parked facing downhill and risked shutting off the motor. There was a long enough slope to try one start on dirt, then a good run to hard pavement for a real start.

I had, maybe, a 2? hour nap with both doors open. Top of the head out one side, feet out the other. Blissful quiet. No vibration. Only a modest lump under the pillow at the transmission… (The rear seat was full of stuff and I didn’t really want to unload it into the dirt…).

But it’s hard to sleep well with 400 mg of caffeine in you and the sun rising… So after a couple of hours I was ‘ready to go’ again.

An easy ‘roll start’ down the hill and back onto the highway. At Kingman Arizona I got gas at Smith’s grocery for $1.93.9 / gallon (when the Truck Stops were again at $2.35 ish) and continued on my way.

By this time, I was uncomfortable with the hand and feet vibrations. I’d used every possible surface on both feet and both hands on the steering wheel and peddle. Cruse Control had died decades back. Never was very good in that era Mercedes. So I was committed to holding the wheel and pushing something. It was a Very Long drive across Arizona and the Mojave of California. Then the turn north up I-5 to Silicon Valley.

The closer I got, the longer it took, or so it seemed. I even accepted buying way overpriced fuel at the fastest stops. $3 / gallon in Kettleman City ( that once was a nice priced stop, now overpriced).

At 6:25 PM, I pulled in to home. In about 10 minutes had “the important parts” unloaded from the car, then had a quick rinse off shower and collapsed into bed and had a ‘few hours nap’. That evening, had a bit of dinner, and returned to bed. The next day, unloaded the trunk of the car.


In two weeks, it hasn’t moved.

It may be another two weeks before I move it.

My palms and soles of the feet are still a bit sensitive to vibration and persistent pressure (the drive to The Presidio that normally would be nothing was a mild irritation) but getting better. I’m almost caught up on sleep (but an occasional afternoon nap makes its desire known).

I’ve actually had enough real meals to have caught up from ‘snacking across the continent’.

It was about 38? hours of almost non-stop driving from Louisiana to here. I didn’t know I could do that. I hope to never do it again.

I’ve discovered I can still, even at 60-something, do everything I ever could do (maybe more), it just hurts more the next day ;-)

I’d have chosen to have the starter changed in Amarillo, but for the risk of a several day loss of time as parts were ordered from far far away. Unloading a fully loaded car into a hotel room for an unknown length of time is not conducive to making a required engagement in “a few days at most”. Driving around / phoning for a few hours would have assured I could not make it home in one go. Prior attempts at ‘old Mercedes repair’ outside California have not been very successful, either. It takes a lot more time and money than I’d like.

So the upshot of all this is that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to plan any more cross continent trips in Very Old Mercedes. I might bring the Banana Boat back from Florida as a final trip to sunny dry climates where it can stay and not further rust away. (Being a 1979 it didn’t like the 2-ish years in Chicago and ‘a few’ in Florida all that well. It now has “skin cancer” in the drivers side fender and a few rust spots elsewhere; so needs dry…) They just aren’t suited to the wet, and the ability to do ‘surprise repairs quickly’ is very very low. Exactly one guy in Orlando can do / will do tuneups on the Banana Boat. “Dwell Meter” not being in the vocabulary of any shop staffed with folks under 50… and “points” being something you get on your iPhone when you play games…

I’m very very slowly in the market for “something else” better suited to a cross continent run and repair in Middle-Of-Nowhere Texas or South-Swamp Florida… Preferably good in rain, mud, sand, storms and desert; and comfortable to drive for 12 hours straight.

Or maybe I’ll just fly into Orlando / Chicago and call Uber ;-)

For now, moping around the house and sleeping whenever I feel like it is about the top of my ambition. Well, that and cooking dinner….

FWIW, made a very nice quick and easy burrito like thing yesterday. Warmed tortillas in a large cast iron skillet. Heated canned refried beans in a medium sized one (giving them that real refried crusty bits flavor ;-) and took a nice sausage (like a polish) and Julianned it. Fried for a couple of minutes in oil to brown a bit.

Now assemble. Tortilla on plate. Smear with beans. Sprinkle on sausage strips. Dot with Olives and top with packaged shredded Mexican mix cheese. Sprinkle hot sauce to taste, and top with butter lettuce from a packaged butter lettuce salad bag. Roll. All up, less than a minute.

Had two, wanted more but was out of room! Yummy. We used Jenny-O Turkey Sausage, but any favorite ought to be fine. (Beef makes the arthritis hurt, turkey doesn’t) Maybe I’ll have another one today… it is lunch time ;-)

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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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24 Responses to 2 Weeks On – My Trip Of Endurance

  1. Oliver K. Manuel says:

    Thanks, E.M. Smith, for sharing your journey! Society may be approaching the end of a 71- year journey through government deception. Thanks for being our friend on the trip.

  2. omanuel says:

    A new paper on the cost to society from this seventy-one year (1945-2016) journey will be published soon.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Had the Buritto redux for lunch. Just as good today as yesterday!

    @OManuel: Let us know in ‘tips’ when the paper is published.

  4. philjourdan says:

    That is a good tip on the tires (I do not have an old Mercedes, so the starter part will not help me). I like to keep my tires fairly new only because I have a pickup and we get snow (so I have deep treads just for that). I do not care if they pass inspection, if the tread is half worn, I get new ones. Not so my wife. And that is the vehicle we usually take on long trips.

    She even forgets to get her oil changed – and I usually do it – when she tells me it needs it!

  5. Nick Fiekowsky says:

    Welcome back.

    I’m in the same age bracket. While the challenges differ, the Toby Keith song, “I’m not as good as I once was…” works.

    Consider small-displacement turbo for your next vehicle. Turbo makes the engine more efficient as RPM increase. Thus better MPG at your typical cruise speed. My Hyundai 2.0 turbo delivers 32-35 MPG for 80 – 85 mph trips in a vehicle about the same size as your banana boat. Drops to mid-20s if cruise control is at 90 mph. As ever, time is money and money can buy some time.

    My long, strange trip was about 20 hours on a motorcycle from far north Michigan to West Virginia. Two of us on a motorcycle, sharing the driving. Managed to sleep sitting up, thanks to the sissy bar. Drove the last hours, finishing on winding highways as the sun rose through mist and logging trucks barreled towards us around the curves. Couldn’t help singing John Denver’s song.

  6. catweazle666 says:

    “My Hyundai 2.0 turbo delivers 32-35 MPG for 80 – 85 mph trips in a vehicle about the same size as your banana boat”

    My somewhat scruffy, very comfortable 1997 2.5 litre Mercedes C-class turbo diesel gives a steady 40+ MPG per (Imperial) gallon over usage including rural, town and a fair bit of motorway where it is in its element. Further, it runs very nicely on cooking oil that can be had for less than half the price of pump diesel.

    So things don’t seem to have progressed much!

  7. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting tale you have there, I also just got back from an “adventure” vacation. Lost a fuel pump on my van out at Bonneville and had all sorts of interesting challenges getting home. Ended up loading the van on a U-haul transport trailer by myself using ropes and a cable come-a-long.
    I have been a cripple for the last 2 days trying to recover, so understand well the pay back from those long and unplanned adventures.

  8. gallopingcamel says:

    I seldom drive more than 1,000 miles a day any more but your account evokes all kinds of memories. Sometimes I get home with that vibration sensation………….thankfully not every time!

    I have a wooden bead seat cover to prevent my butt seizing up but am not convinced that it helps even though I have met taxi drivers who swear by it,

    My last trip will be to north east Alabama in November……..a mere 600 miles! While I am 15 years older than you the car I drive makes a huge difference both in comfort and fuel economy. For long business trips my vehicle is configured as a two seater with the rear of the vehicle stacked with equipment to the point that the inboard rear view mirror is obstructed. Even so I average more than 27 miles per gallon with a gasoline engine!

  9. Gail Combs says:

    All my vehicles (pick-ups) are 1993 or older. I like a vehicle WITHOUT a computer mucking up the works and doing the deciding on whether or not it will allow starting the engine.

    We are lucky and just found a great new mechanic. He just started business and is now overwhelmed with business. Word travels fast.

    We would like to buy a new horse trailer and could get what we want custom made in Texas but the though of taking one of the old trucks out to pick it up makes me hesitate. Now we usually rent a car for a long trip. I just checked and you can even rent a pickup or a van.


    That may be your best method for long distance travel. Keep the old vehicles for running around the local area (we have three pickups and trailers so we always have a spare) and rent when you need to make a long trip. That way you get the best of both worlds and save money too.

  10. philjourdan says:

    @Gail – the last time some clown hit me, I went to get a rental until the body work was done on my pickup. The car rental was Enterprise (they do a big business outside of airports unlike the other rentals), and they went to great lengths to get me a pickup as my rental! So yes, they do rent pickups.

  11. John F. Hultquist says:

    E. M., We went across the south with a radiator cap that had an issue. Once diagnosed, it was an easy fix. Not very exciting, as was your trip.

    We have an old travel trailer (just in case we have to evacuate – wild fire) and a tire went soft a few months ago. I re-inflated it and then moved the trailer to a spot easier to get to.
    In 3 days the tire was down again. Took it to Les Schwab (they have tire centers all across the west and are great to deal with). The tire was 15 years old and the rim’s date was 1982, or 34 years old. After a bit of cleaning the tire held air for 4 days. Problem was with the rims.
    I took all the tires in and they sent them off for a powder coating refurbishing and a new color – Kubota orange, my choice.
    I had new tires put on, also. Here’s why.
    I had an old tire mounted on the side of a horse trailer. On a hot sunny day it blew; parked 50 yards from the house. The tire faced away from the house and nothing was near. I heard it go, but had no idea. Got in the car and drove around (4 miles) the section looking for a plane crash, fire, something. Best non-catastrophe I’ve ever encountered.

    Gail Combs wants a new trailer.
    Years ago a person from out our way (ID/WA) would drive to Tennessee or Texas. He would buy a new horse trailer and load it with horses purchased there (Walkers). He sold the horses and used the trailer for a year, then sold it. He would repeat this each year. You can investigate. The trailer with the outside tire mount we purchased from him.
    On the other hand, a custom made (fancy) trailer might include delivery. Work through a dealer near you.

  12. Ralph B says:

    Come down further south if you need some work done. Many vintage vehicles in my area…Charlotte county. I can recommend a mechanic who can set points in his sleep. Also as there are lots of retirees here there are many old Mercedes around.

    I have a Cummins 4bt in my truck…homemade swap…I carry several spare parts with me when I travel long distances. It is a comfortable ride though 2004 Titan no vibration felt although I haven’t got the cruise control working and the clutch is heavy in traffic. I average 25mpg running 75-80.

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting item here on the PDO


    This comment in the post got my attention, isn’t this exactly backwards that the atmosphere responds to the PDO and not the other way around??

    Since the PDO largely represents an ocean response to the atmosphere, you have to be careful in saying that the PDO actually causes any big change in the atmospheric circulation. It can have an influence locally, though. If you live adjacent to the west coast, a positive PDO can lead to local impacts to weather and climate through the direct effects of warmer-than-average ocean waters.

  14. clipe says:

    Funny how, after reading this article, I immediately come across…

    If your engine gives you these symptoms with sufficient fuel in the tank, your fuel pump may be the cause. An easy road-side diagnosis can be done by turning off all noise sources in the vehicle (radio, HVAC and complaining passengers) and then cycling the key from off to the on position; if you can’t hear that faint hum from the rear of the vehicle (that means the fuel pump is cycling on in preparation to start), then you may have a deceased pump.

    You might temporarily bring it back to life with the automotive version of CPR. Often an electric fuel pump will fail because of sticking brushes on its motor; a few solid slaps on the bottom of the fuel tank with something non-lethal like a snow brush or flat stick can often bring the pump back to life to let you get safely off the road.


  15. clipe says:

    Funny in the sense that ,strike>the more… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  16. clipe says:

    Funny in the sense that ,the more… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  17. Gail Combs says:

    “…Since the PDO largely represents an ocean response to the atmosphere, you have to be careful in saying that the PDO actually causes any big change in the atmospheric circulation….”

    That is a tail wagging the dog.

    Actual sequence of events:
    Sun warms ocean then ocean warms atmosphere. You then have to toss in change in cloud cover and wind that is feedback that will change the amount of energy that goes into the ocean.

    And if you want to get really picky:

    ΔUV(1)(2) ===> ΔOzone (3) ===> ΔStratospheric Temperature(4) ===> Δtropopause height(4) + Δ wind strength of jets(5) and motion**(6) + Δstrength of the stratospheric vortex (7)(8) + ΔOzone hole (9)

    And Δ Ozone ===> Δ Antarctic wind ===> Δ Antarctic Circumpolar current ===> Δ Humbolt current ===> Δ ENSO

    (Δ = Changes in)


    (1) NASA 2007 before the deep solar minimum.: ” In recent years, SIM has collected data that suggest the sun’s brightness may vary in entirely unexpected ways… “We have never had a reason until now to believe that parts of the spectrum may vary out of phase with the solar cycle, but now we have started to model that possibility because of the SIM results,” …
    “Between 2004 and 2007, the Solar Irradiance Monitor (blue line) measured a decrease in ultraviolet radiation (less than 400 nanometers) that was a factor of four to six larger than expected.”

    (2)NASA 2009 “…A 12-year low in solar “irradiance”: Careful measurements by several NASA spacecraft show that the sun’s brightness has dropped by 0.02% at visible wavelengths and 6% at extreme UV wavelengths since the solar minimum of 1996….” science(DOT)nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/01apr_deepsolarminimum/

    (3)Solar Spectral Irradiance Data

    Research and Applications
    Because of selective absorption and scattering processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, different regions of the solar spectrum affect Earth’s climate in distinct ways. Approximately 20-25% of the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) is absorbed by atmospheric water vapor, clouds, and ozone, by processes that are strongly wavelength dependent. Ultraviolet radiation at wavelengths below 300 nm is completely absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and contributes the dominant energy source in the stratosphere and thermosphere, establishing the upper atmosphere’s temperature, structure, composition, and dynamics. Even small variations in the Sun’s radiation at these short wavelengths will lead to corresponding changes in atmospheric chemistry. Radiation at the longer visible and infrared wavelengths penetrates into the lower atmosphere, where the portion not reflected is partitioned between the troposphere and the Earth’s surface, and becomes a dominant term in the global energy balance and an essential determinant of atmospheric stability and convection.

    (4)Changes in Ozone and Stratospheric Temperature

    The graph above shows total ozone and stratospheric temperatures over the Arctic since 1979. Changes in ozone amounts are closely linked to temperature, with colder temperatures resulting in more polar stratospheric clouds and lower ozone levels. Atmospheric motions drive the year-to-year temperature changes. The Arctic stratosphere cooled slightly since 1979, but scientists are currently unsure of the cause….


    Ozone is an important atmospheric trace constituent. The depletion of solar radiation between approximately 2000 and 3000 A is the result of strong absorption by ozone in the ultraviolet wave-lengths. The energy absorbed in this process is the prime source of thermal energy in the stratosphere. Because of this, ozone plays an important role in the large-scale motions of the atmosphere….

    ….A strong correlation was found between the meridional gradient of total ozone and the wind velocity in jet stream systems…..

    (6)Top-Down Solar Modulation of Climate: evidence for centennial-scale change

    The work presented here is consistent with the interpretation of a recently reported effect [25] of solar variability on the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and European winter temperatures over the interval 1659–2010 in terms of top-down modulation of the blocking phenomenon [52, 53]. In fact, Woollings et al [26] show that the solar response pattern is, despite being similar in form to that of the NAO, significantly different in that it reaches further east. These authors also show that open solar flux has a much stronger control over blocking events in this sector than the previously reported effect of F10.7 [55]. There is seasonality in the solar responses reported here. This is expected as modulation of upwards-propagating planetary waves in wintertime, and the associated stratosphere– troposphere interaction, is most widely believed to be the key mechanism [8, 11]. In addition, the tropospheric signature is a response of the eddy-driven jet streams, and these are at their strongest and most responsive in winter. While the results are presented here as annual means, the regression analysis was actually carried out on monthly mean data and thus takes this seasonality into account. The seasonal evolution of the F10.7 cm flux regression was described in detail by Frame and Gray [53] and this was not significantly affected by using either the open solar flux FS nor the cosmic ray flux, M, instead of F10.7.”

    Click to access 1748-9326_5_3_034008.pdf

    (7a)The NAO Troposphere–Stratosphere Connection “Using monthly mean data, daily data, and theoretical arguments, relationships between surface pressure variations associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), tropopause height, and the strength of the stratospheric vortex are established.”

    (8)Quasi-biennial oscillation and solar cycle influences on winter Arctic total ozone


    The total column ozone (TCO) observed from satellites and assimilated in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts since 1979 is used as an atmospheric tracer to study the modulations of the winter Arctic stratosphere by the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) and the solar cycle. It is found that both the QBO and solar forcings in low latitudes can perturb the late winter polar vortex, likely via planetary wave divergence, causing an early breakdown of the vortex in the form of sudden stratospheric warming. As a result, TCO within the vortex in late winter can increase by ~60 Dobson unit during either a solar maximum or an easterly phase of the QBO, or both, relative to the least perturbed state when the solar cycle is minimum and the QBO is in the westerly phase. In addition, from the solar maximum to the solar minimum during the QBO easterly phase, the change in TCO is found to be statistically insignificant. Therefore, the “reversal” of the Holton–Tan effect, reported in some previous studies using lower stratospheric temperature, is not evident in the TCO behavior of both observation and assimilation.

    (9)Climate System Response to Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Recovery

    Compared to well-mixed greenhouse gases (GHGs), the radiative forcing of climate due to observed stratospheric ozone loss is very small: in spite of this, recent trends in stratospheric ozone have caused profound changes in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) climate system, primarily by altering the tropospheric midlatitude jet, which is commonly described as a change in the Southern Annular Mode. Ozone depletion in the late twentieth century was the primary driver of the observed poleward shift of the jet during summer, which has been linked to changes in tropospheric and surface temperatures, clouds and cloud radiative effects, and precipitation at both middle and low latitudes. It is emphasized, however, that not all aspects of the SH climate response to stratospheric ozone forcing can be understood in terms of changes in the midlatitude jet. The response of the Southern Ocean and sea ice to ozone depletion is currently a matter of debate. ….

    The whole Δ Sun/ ozone/wind/Antarctic Current/ Humbolt current/ ENSO is an interesting ‘Dig Here’ Lots of bits and pieces but no one is going to put them together because they shoot down CAGW.

  18. Ian W says:

    I had an experience with an old Morris Minor (google it) that was old when I bought it – nowhere near the level of yours as I was just crossing the UK from Darlington in the North East to Anglesey in Wales. I found that I was having to slipstream trucks on the motorway to climb ‘hills’ no real power at all. Stopped to refuel and the car _barely_ started after multiple attempts. Got caught in a jam in ‘single lane traffic’ passing Warrington and when the revs dropped it stalled – luckily the road was on a long incline not a steep one – I remember rolling slowly down the hill with a truck with airbrakes going on and off filling the rear view mirror. Eventually the slope was enough to get me to 15 mph or so and I put it into 3rd gear and it started after a few jerky complaints. So then i drove non stop to my local village garage in Anglesey. Parked without unpacking and it stalled. So I told the garage owner who I knew quite well (as I wasn’t a b****y tourist) my problem and that as the car wouldn’t start could I leave it where it was and hump my belongings back to my flat around a mile away. He asked what the symptoms were and said that sounds like you may have burned out some exhaust valves. Get in put full accelerator on – now start it. And it started first time. {{sigh}} . There you go he said bring it back in tomorrow and I’ll fix it. He did too, eight pounds for lifting the head and changing all the valves. Even in 1971 that was cheap – but then I wasn’t a b****y tourist and the Welsh are very friendly to the folk in the village.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ian W:

    Growing up, the Mexican Friend’s Mom drove a Morris Minor? wagony thing. Always loved it ;-)

    I think it was a Minor 1000…


    I’ve had the fuel pump go on the SLC (electric pump). This isn’t that.

    I’ve gone through 3 or 4 starter failures over the last several decades. VERY familiar symptoms. Just “nothing” when you turn the key (maybe a faint click can be heard if the windows are open).

    Then the fuel thing. Thanks to playing with Diesels for the last 40? years on “funny fuels”, I’ve gotten really really familiar with the plugging fuel filter problems on a Bosch injector precombustion chamber system. On the old International Harvester Scout with a 6 cylinder Nissan / Bosch in it, the fuel filter would crap up a bit and then the pleats would get sucked in and it would slow way down. Wait a minute, they would puff back out and you were good to go again… unless you exceeded the now reduced flow rate. Repeat…

    So in this case it isn’t an electric fuel pump (or any fuel pump) but the filters. It was known to have sat for two years and then just run without any fuel system flush, then fed biodiesel that is also known to dislodge crap. I’d give it a 99.9% certainty.

    I’ve had fuel pumps fail and they have failed “faster”…


    The problem is finding those folks rapidly when you are from out of town on the interstate…

    Had I been willing to take the time hit, I’d have ordered / phoned around to find the starter, then picked a random garage to do the swap. It’s pretty trivial. IIRC, 2 big bolts and the electrical wire. Just very heavy… I weighed the choices and “not sleeping” was easier than fighting to find parts and mechanic.

    The other “minor” issue was an earache from “swimmers ear”. I really wanted to get back to Kaiser Kountry just in case… (now resolving with the Dr. prescribed ear drops…)

  20. Gail Combs says:

    E.M. I was suggesting keeping the oldie but goodies for around town and renting if you have to go cross country.

    If you end up working back out here again you might want to buy an old clunker and then sell it when the contract is up.

    The cost of a new vehicle or a relatively new vehicle makes me choke.

    My current bang around 1987 gas pickup cost $1,500 and has given us no trouble in the three years we have had it. It works hauling the horse trailer in a pinch or if the other two pickups are in the shop/busy.

    All I am suggesting is the economist looks at the economics… (grin)

  21. E.M.Smith says:


    Did something like that when the spouse came out last contract. A rental car for a couple of weeks was going to be about $2k, so I bought an old Merceds for $1600 instead.

    A few months later, it tossed a timing chain and ate its engine … but I was a few thousand ahead over a rental by then.

    My present muse is to buy a Subaru Forester or Outback in Florida (next need) and see how that works out. Probably a couple of years out though. I already have the Banana Boat there and three cars in California. 4 cars for 2 drivers is really one car too many… (So clearly I have to buy a truck instead :-)

  22. cdquarles says:

    I’ve done a few 1000 mile trips. I’d never want to do more than 500 or 600 now. I don’t like riding a bus or a train. I will ride in an airplane, though I’d rather sit in the cockpit than in the back (yes, I have a few hours flying an airplane). I know the country fairly well within a 300 mile radius of me. Beyond that, not so much. I-95 I know well enough from Savannah, Ga to Philadelphia, PA. I know every inch of I-85 and I-59. I know every inch of I-65, too, but the parts north of Nashville, TN much less well. I know I-81 really well from Knoxville, TN through the Shenandoah valley. Winchester, VA is a far north as I’ve gotten. I know I-20 from Savannah, GA to Monroe, LA. I’ve flown over the rest of it ;). I know I-10 well from the I-75 junction to Baton Rouge, LA; and I’ll use I-12 if I want to bypass New Orleans. I’ve flown over the western parts, too. I’ve seen parts of US1, much of US 11 from New Orleans up to Winchester, VA. I know all of US 280, but best west of Columbus, GA.

  23. philjourdan says:


    I know I-81 really well from Knoxville, TN through the Shenandoah valley. Winchester, VA is a far north as I’ve gotten.

    There is something north of Shenandoah on I-81? ;-)

  24. Gail Combs says:

    E.M. We beat you. We ‘only’ have five pick-ups since we sold the Peterbilt and Freightliner. (Just the two of us.)

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