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ARCHIVE- Guac Road Trip - California May 2006

The Guac goes to California

Photos Here

On April 23rd, my grandmother passed away. For various reasons, I needed to get my family out to California. Air fare would be around $2000, and then I`d still need to get a rental car. Ouch. So the decision was made to drive.

I really hadn`t wanted to drive the Guac on any long trips until I had a chance to install my tach, windshield washer pump, summer tires, tighten up the sloppy shifter, etc. But I seriously doubted the Volvo`s ability to make it there and back. Not to mention the lack of space in the Volvo for a long trip with 4 people. So the Guac it is.

But I had no funds at all. Nothing. Nada. I had a small tax return coming that would cover at least some of the trip, but it might be a while. The IRS website said I`d have it on 5/3. A long ways away. I was going nuts. Then the return showed up in my account on 4/27! WooHoo!

Stopped at the VW shop and picked up throttle cable, clutch cable, fuel filter, oil filter, brake pads, and borrowed a timing scale. Went home and did an oil change and timed the engine. It was set to TDC so I moved it to 7.5° BTDC. I had also planned on swapping my points for my Pertronix. But the timing was rock solid and the dwell locked in at 50° so I left perfection alone. I never did get to put the new brake pads in... I also decided NOT to swap the tires. I kept the Nokians on, and am VERY glad I did.

Day One

We planned on leaving at 4pm Friday, April 28, as soon as my 15 year old son got out of school. Of course, life never happens as planned. We left after 6pm. Got on C-470 heading for I-70, and immediately hit Friday night traffic. Ugh. So we pulled off to eat dinner at McD`s, figuring we needed to eat anyway, so why sit and crawl in traffic then stop to eat when the traffic is lighter.

Getting back on the road, traffic had cleared considerably. We headed West on I-70 and stopped in one of the ski resort areas for potty breaks and some coffee. The Guac did awesome. Climbed the mountains like they weren`t there. Well, ok, I had to drop to 3rd a couple times, but not bad at all.

Going through the Vail Pass to the Eisenhower Tunnel the road at night was a sheet of ice. The Nokians stuck to that ice like glue. At a fuel stop in Vail, I had a guy driving a Jeep Cherokee asking how I handled the ice. He said he nearly flipped his truck after losing control on it. I just pointed to the Nokians on the Guac and said I didn`t even notice. heh

We made it to Grand Junction around midnight and stayed in a Motel 6. I must say that it was a horrible hotel. In fact, I`ve never been pleased with Motel 6`s. But this was especially bad... Urine on the toilet, boogers on the bathroom walls, condoms for sale in a machine next to the snack vending machine, etc. Bad.

Day Two

We took off around 10am Saturday and headed for Vegas. We stopped in Utah to go to Walmart to get some black RTV to hold the top rubber in the slider window channel. Walking up to the Guac, I noticed 4 oil spots. Drat! I was so stoked to not have any oil leaks. I guess 500-ish miles of 70mph did it. I`ll figure out where the leak is once I get to California. It`s small, so I`m not concerned. Just keep checking the oil.

Speaking of 70mph, that`s the speed I maintained on the flats and downhills. The Guac handled 70 easily, with just a nudge on the gas pedal. Even some uphills it took at 70 at no more than 3/4 throttle. I did notice there`s little difference in pull between 3/4 throttle and full throttle. So I saw no point in using full throttle ever. If the hills get steep, I drop to third and hold at 48 mph. Ticked SUV drivers be darned.

At each stop I check the oil. The level has yet to change. Dipstick has never been more than mildly warm, though that`s not much of an indicator with a type 4 engine because it passes through the cooling airflow to get to the sump.

We stopped in Mesquite, NV instead of Vegas because I was too fried. My shoulders and neck muscles hurt from fighting crosswinds in Utah for hours on end. We stayed at the Virgin River Casino. $89 for a huge room on a spring Saturday night. Pretty good. Plus I`m $20 ahead on the slots.

Day Three

Got to Anaheim at 10:30 last night. Traffic on I-15 was horrible between Vegas and Baker, with some slowing off-and-on until Barstow. We stopped at State Line (errrr... "Primm") and hung out for a couple hours hoping to let the traffic go by. Didn`t happen. There was a fatal accident that caused the traffic initially, but then cars were overheating and stalling and such in the traffic, stretching out the problem for much longer than it needed to be. At Primm I saw a nearly new Escalade dump its radiator. A little ways up I saw a BRAND new Excursion do the same thing. The Guac just chugged along with nary a worry.

Oh, yes. It was HOT. Stopped at Baker and looked at the thermometer. (For those of you who don`t know, Baker has the "World`s Largest Thermometer".) When we got there it was 109 degrees! 20 minutes later after buying the obligatory Lotto ticket at the Lotto store, it was 113!!! I`m glad I made sure to seal up the tinwork on the Guac`s engine before leaving! Though the bottom pieces between the case and the heat exchangers are missing.

The oil leak is VERY small. Still no noticable change in the dipstick level. And the oil is still clear and gold. Have to hold the dipstick at an angle to the light to see the oil level.

We got to Anaheim around 11pm. Twin mattresses on the floor of my in-law`s were soooo comfortable...

What happened in California

The next day I visited my mom, spent some time in my grandma`s house, etc. Sad sad sad.

Tuesday, I got called into the corporate office. My director knew I was in California and asked me to come in. We knew some layoffs were coming, so I figured I was gone. I spent some time cleaning off my laptop and backing up my personal stuff and went into the office in Irvine.

It was worse than anyone expected.

After saying hi to everybody in Irvine that I hadn`t seen in a while, I and 7 other people were called into a separate office. I thought, "Here it is. I`m gone, and so are these other people." But it was just the opposite. Once we were all in the office, we were told we were the new Help Desk. The dozens of other people were all let go! I was stunned. A total of 3800 people were layed off, and all of our retail branches were closed. The company is going for a completely new business model, essentially starting over from scratch. Most of the folks that were let go, and some of us that were kept, went out that night. I think the Dave and Buster`s at the Block in Orange had never seen such a crowd on a Tuesday.

I spent the next two days in a brutal depression.

Could it get worse? Yep. The Guac broke down. It started with a sudden loss of power whenever I hit 28mph in 2nd gear. But it would clear itself almost immediately. The power loss was instant, like someone pulled the coil wire off. I really felt it was ignition related. So I bought new points, condensor, cap, rotor, and coil, over the course of the day. Nothing made a difference. I tried to measure my fuel pressure, but the gauge I had was for carbs and only went to 10psi. I spent several hours fruitlessly searching for a high pressure gauge without molded in fittings for Schraeder valves. The pressure fitting on the bus FI system takes a fitting nobody makes anymore. The solution is to clamp a hose to it. No FLAPS anywhere had anything that would work. I finally gave up searching and the next day replaced the fuel filter.

The fat hose between the filter and the fuel pump was collapsed and rotted. I shook the filter out and found bits of rubber as well. All the hoses except for the one I found were replaced recently. Sigh. A new filter and a piece of 1/2" heater hose (temporary) and the Guac was back to his old self!

Crap! Why didn`t I listen to the list members who told me to check the fuel system first?!?!?

Return trip: Day 1

After fixing the fuel filter and getting everybody loaded into the Guac, it was around 4pm. My wife still really wanted to visit her old friend in Big Bear, so up we went. We took the "side" way through Redlands (hwy 30) since her friend lives in Sugarloaf. Got there around 6:30, visited for a while, then headed out for some dinner. We ended up at the Carl`s Jr that I worked at when I lived there.

We got back on the road around 9pm, and went down the desert side (hwy 18). Stopped and took a picture at a sign I`d never seen before: Happy Trails Highway. WTF? Couldn`t pass up that photo op... ;-)

Landed in Barstow at 11-ish and I was fading fast so stopped for the night. Travelodge on Main St. AVOID. Non-smoking room smells like smoke, cig ashes UNDER the bedspread, a dirty footprint under the bedspread on the other bed, roaches, thin towels, and $80 a night. Ugh.

The Guac thought he was a sports car the whole way. He kept sneaking the speed to 80 without my knowing! =)

Return trip: Day 2

Stopped in Richfield, UT, for the night. Against my better judgement we stayed at yet another Travelodge. Happily, this one was nice and a few bucks cheaper than the one we stayed in the night before.

Again the Guac ran well, but now it`s showing that it`s tired of the road trip. I`ve developed a chirp that I believe is an exhaust leak. No power loss, just chirping at idle and low RPMs. The oil leak is growing. Instead of 3 little dots, there`s a single larger smear after parking all night. And finally, the hot start issue has hit me for the first time. If I stop for gas, no problem. If I stop for 30-45 minutes, like to eat, the starter doesn`t even click. A screwdriver to the terminals starts it right up. Voltage at the battery is still nearly 13v, so the voltage drop has to be across the ignition switch or the wires to-from. Guess it`s a relay for me when I get a chance.

Return trip: Days 3 and 4

We left the Travelodge in Utah and I discovered I was a half quart low on oil. Stopped at Kmart for that and to pick up a lumbar pillow. My back`s been hurting on this drive. (I had oil in the bus, but it was a big 5 quart bottle. Didn`t want to open it for a measly half quart if I didn`t have to.)

Everything`s copasetic again on the drive. Bus doing very well. Then we passed into Colorado. Stopped in Parachute so the kids could run around the park. After we left my wife asked if we could have a real dinner instead of the junk food we`d been eating. I figured we`d find something in the Vail area.

Then we got hit with a downpour. Big fat rain drops. Driver`s side wiper made short work of the rain, but the passenger side was just flopping around below the windshield. Sigh. Both the arm and the pivot were stripped, so I had run a screw through the arm to hold it to the pivot before we left. Obviously not good enough. Well, one side is better than no side.

Tried the Gashouse, 30 minute wait. Thank goodness, because I saw the prices! Nothing around there looked appealing, so we went up to another exit. Ahh, Vail West. Traffic circle hell. The sign said there was an Outback Steakhouse 1/4 mile from the freeway. What the sign didn`t say was what a pain it would be to find it tucked in the corner of a shopping center. $60 later I`m back in the bus (after dark... One of these days I`ll see Vail during the day!) My wife slams the door and the friggin mirror dropped out of the frame on her door. ARRGGHH! She`s jinxed I tell ya!

I decide to get some coffee because it`s pushing 10pm and I want to get home. I didn`t sleep much the night before. 3 offramps and not a single open gas station! Finally in Frisco a couple miles off the freeway I found a 7-11. Got coffee and tried to adjust my headlights. Oh, didn`t I tell you? The things are pointed down and to the left. I figured 2 minutes with a screwdriver and I`d be good to go. But NOOOOOOO... VW in its infinite wisdom only has a 3 point adjustment: one pivot point and 2 springloaded screws. Dead on my feet and I couldn`t figure out how to make them point where I wanted. I spent 20 minutes screwing with `em. Finally gave up. They point where they point.

Ice again around Vail. I`m soo glad I kept those Nokians on the bus. I watched a loaded semi go sideways around a turn! Climbing out of vail heading east was bad. 30mph in 2nd was the best I could do until we got to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Then lots of curvy 8% downhill road. And funny signs, "Truckers: Don`t be fooled! There`s 8 more miles of steep curvy road!"

Finally out of the mountain roads around 11pm. I was completely exhausted from lack of sleep and concentrating on the mountain roads. Actually nodded off at one point, so I pulled off and got another hotel room for the night... 45 minutes from home. Better safe and broke than sorry though.

I got home (finally!) at around 11am.