Friday, April 23, 2021

 Gone Exploring. Part One.

Ford had a creative ad campaign, 
which really hit the target.

The curiosity shouldn't extend to whether or not you'll reach your destination!

I recently had quite an adventure with my Explorer. I really don't blame it for my problems.

It has always run pretty good, no problems like over heating, it doesn't even leak any oil. It did stall out a couple of times, but it never happened while I was driving it.

I've done a few things to maintain and repair it. I bought a couple of rear tires, a blower motor, thermostat housing gasket, front shock absorbers, and battery. I just changed the air filter a couple of months ago. 

I knew that it would make an occasional moaning sound, usually when cold, which I attributed to the serpentine belt. I inspected the belt, didn't see any cracking or chunking so I filed that away in my memory banks,  though I did get around to ordering a new belt and idler pulley set from Rock Auto. It's currently sitting in my garage!

I was going to change them a few months back, I even mentioned that in my earlier post. But I never did. 

The noise never seemed to get any worse and the belt never frayed. So it was easy to put off. I had taken the '07 Mustang on both trips to Fresno for the vaccine. We had a sudden family emergency in Riverside so the three of us were all going to go. 

I thought that we would be more comfortable in the Explorer and figured that it was good to go. So off we went. It was running fine I kept it down to 70 mph. in an attempt to optimize the fuel economy as best as possible. As much as I liked the vehicle, it was never going to be a gas mileage champ. My mileage had always been around 17-18 mpg. on long trips. 

photo source:
This highway cuts through a part of Los Angeles County that few think about.

It was running fine, a/c on, until we were on the Pear Blossom Highway east of the little town of Llano. We stopped at the signal light and I heard a unusual sound from under the hood. I could tell that it was not going to be good. The sound seemed to stop as rpm increased, so I thought that things would be okay. I pulled over and took a quick look under the hood I didn't see anything wrong so I continued on. A couple of miles out of town there was a horrible screeching sound. 

It sounded like a demon had taken up residence under the hood!

The engine continued running, the belt wasn't broken. Could it be that one of the accessory drive units; the alternator, a/c pump, or power steering pump had seized up, and the pulley was no longer spinning? I gingerly felt the top of the alternator and it didn't feel particularly hot. 

Since the a/c, and power steering, had been working fine until then, and the alternator was still charging, I didn't  think that those items had seized up. That leaves the belt tensioner and guide rollers. I'd bet that one of these rollers seized up just like they had been warning me! 

I could test my hypothesis by disconnecting or cutting the belt, and seeing (listening) if that eliminated the noise. I didn't have the tools with me and getting to our destination outweighed any other considerations. 

Currently AAA does not allow the stranded motorists to ride in the tow ruck, due to Covid, so we had to secure our own ride. Luckily our Daughter who is car share savvy and managed to secure an Uber for us. My first. The Explorer and us were on our way to Riverside. We beat it there by a little time. 

Now what to do? 

We didn't have a car, and all the rentals were sold out. I didn't have a car available to run around and look for a  garage to fix it. Besides, I didn't know exactly what was wrong so I couldn't say how much I would be willing to spend. I was very lucky that one of my Brothers in Law was kind enough to lend us his 2018 BMW coupe to drive back and forth from our lodging in Anaheim. More about that later. 

The Explorer wasn't leaking any coolant or oil and it looked quite presentable in my eyes. My BIL's home is in a new subdivision where parking is a little tight and I thought I would have to move the Explorer instead of taking up a space and a half at the curb. He is not a car guy so it wasn't like we were going to break out the tools and take a look-see. I wasn't going to be the first guy to drip oil in his driveway! 

It's been a long time since I was subject to car trouble so far from home, 400 miles! With an old, low value car that I had been intending to sell, just a couple of weeks ago. It's not like this was treasured hobby car, though I'd developed a bit of a relationship with it. 

Family business was the priority and that came first. A couple of days later we needed to leave as my Wife was teaching an art class that had been scheduled for the next day. There wasn't time to hang around Riverside and mull over options. We picked up a rental car and instead of the expected Hyundai something, we optioned our way into a Mustang GT convertible.  

What exactly were my options?

1) Find a local garage to fix the Explorer.

2) Fix it myself down there.

3) Hire a tow to bring the thing back home. 

4) Return with my truck and trailer and bring it home myself.

5) Sell it to a wrecking yard.

6) Donate to a charity.

7) Try to sell it locally on CL.

My reactions in order:

1) Maybe, but I'd need more time down there to run around and investigate. There would also be a spending limit. I have to return immediately and it would take another trip. 

2) No. I can't really fix it there, so it would either have to be towed home or I'd have to return with my truck and a trailer. I would have some anxiety about my truck making it since it also has some deferred maintenance issues.

3) No, AAA is making it harder to stack tows and there is the additional expense of the rental car. I investigated the cost and it was way too high. I'd have to hire a car transport service.

4) Maybe. A rough top of my head guess, would be 150 bucks for gas, 150 for the trailer 300.00 at least. Doable, but it would be a long day. I still have those concerns over the reliability of my truck. Didn't I want to get rid of it anyway? 

5) Maybe, but I had to deal with 800 numbers and I found that I had to physically be there to complete the transaction. 

6) Maybe a better choice. The donation rep told me that I could have an authorized person conduct the transaction, if I sent them the title. 

7) You must be kidding!

I ended up moving the Explorer from the court out to a nearby street. Then I left it there to return home to decide what action to take. I contacted the Pick your Part car buyer and arranged to sell it to them for 770 bucks, tow included. I will have to return with the pink slip, but family business required that anyway, so we are going to return the next week.

Friday, April 16, 2021

 Newsflash! Better Beaters writer is sick and tired of cars! Film at 11!

I don't think that Ron Burgundy would cover this story. 

Is it really true? What does this really mean, and what does it mean for Better Beaters? Inquiring minds want to know! 

No matter what the field is, if you're an enthusiast about anything, you're never supposed to ever admit this. That would be like people giving up playing golf, or gasp, watching football. 

Our enthusiasms are something that we satisfy when we could be spending our time and energies on something else. Maybe something more productive, that we should be spending our energies on! 

These are the things that we've established as our right to engage in, we jealously protect the right to spend our time in these pursuits. 

Sometimes we've even exerted pressure on our personal relationships to allow for enough time and room for these activities to exist.

We've declared that the time spent, the money spent, the energy expended is worth it, even if just for our personal enjoyment. 

This territory was often hard won, and there is no reason to retreat. That is very the definition of the "slippery slope."

Especially if there is a significant other that has always been very skeptical of the benefits of "this enthusiasm" from the beginning. 

Of course whatever the field is, you sometimes might actually feel like dialing things back. Normally though, you just wouldn't make an announcement and call attention to the fact. 

You try to nonchalantly step away for a little while, maybe no one will notice! 

What does this actually mean anyway? 

Our hobbies are activities that we are enthusiastic about. Our interests are ideas that we are enthusiastic about. I do prefer to spend my time thinking about cars and I enjoy thinking about cars. However, it's not the only thing that I am interested in.

These interests are something that can take up a lot of our time.

Because a person only has so many personal resources, sometimes priorities will have to be established. Things have to be prioritized in order to make the most effective use of our resources. 

I've mentioned that I'm in the process of fixing up my house. Rebuilding fences, trimming overgrown trees. Trying to rejuvenate a patchy lawn by overseeding. Painting the house. Helping the Wife with her re-organizing projects. I just finished building a little lean to in the backyard for my lawn mower and lawn equipment out of repurposed fencing materials. Even taking loads of junk to the dump. 

On top of all that I'm having some problems with my house's sewer system. That's causing me a lot of worry and will probably start to cost me a lot of money pretty soon. 

None of this is any news to other homeowners. I know that there are many others out there in the same boat. 

A person only has so many personal resources. They have to make choices. 

A limited amount of energy, enthusiasm, discipline, resourcefulness, or most critically time.

At least once in awhile. 

Even if you are not an enthusiast you still have to deal with cars.

Just like millions of other people. 

Drive them wherever you're going.

Fix them when they need it.

I might not feel too motivated or enthused about working on my cars at the moment. But I'm going to do it anyway. At least the repairs that are really needed. 

I'm not really too keen about all the work that I've got to do around the house. Especially the sewer, but I'm gonna deal with it anyway. 

How is this going to affect the blog? 

There is probably going to be less coverage of repairing my cars and more editorial stuff. As in opinion pieces, reminisces, etc.

I'm treating these like a writing assignment. I'm still working on that book, after all. I'm even trying to write some auto themed short stories. 

There is a certain amount of guilt involved in making this admission.  Starting a blog like this, is like appointing yourself as a high priest of the car hobby. Shouldn't I be expected to set the example? 

I hope that I can continue to produce postings that my readers will still find of value and entertainment. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Breaking up is hard to do. 

This picture has nothing to do with the opening of my post.
I just knew that it was eye catching!

I guess that you could say that mulling over my stable of cars, is my Buffalo fat to chew. In other words, you can spend a lot of time doing it, without making any real progress. 

I finally made a move by listing my XJS on the Jaguar forums. I don't imagine that I'll have buyers breaking down my door to get the car. An interesting thing about the listing is that it keeps a running tally of views and replies. I listed it on April 1st. and so far there have been 204 views but zero replies. These are cars that some people like to read about, but don't particularly want to own. I cant say that I blame them. 

It's a 3,500 dollar car that needs another five to seven thousand dollars invested, just to get to a satisfactory level.

As an enthusiast I'm lately kind of finding myself in a weird space. I still like cars and driving.

I'm just kind of getting tired of the dreaming and scheming, and the thoughts of having to work on them.

Just watch it for the car.

I found a post on Pat Ganahl's Rod and Custom site about tracing the route of the California Kid.

The California Kid was not only a movie, it was a car. 

This was an 1973 ABC Movie of the Week, that I watched live on TV. It supposedly starred Martin Sheen, but the actual star was Pete Chapouris' fantastic '34 Ford chopped and flamed coupe. This was one of the cars who's publicity led to increasing re-interest in street rods. 

In my mind that car personifies the essence of a real Hot Rod! 

After readings Pat's post I found the movie available on YouTube so I watched it a couple of days ago.

The car was about forty years old when the movie was made. 

Watching the car being driven down the highway was amazing, it is the perfect marriage of streamlined aggression and enticing beauty. So impressive, especially with the fantastic flame job. Since then, I've always wanted a flame paint job but have never had the right car to put it on. I did put a flamed graphic on the tank of my fatbobbed Honda Shadow. I wish that I had a picture of that bike, with ape hangers, solo seat, leather bags and the factory shotgun pipes, it was the best "Harley" that I ever had! 

 I sure would like to have a car like the Kid, in my garage! 

Interestingly enough, I saw a very nicely flamed black '59 Chevy two door sedan driving down the street in Newark a couple of days ago.

I sure would like to have a car like that  in my garage! 

But would I really? 

Would I really want to actually own it, would I actually ever drive it?

Even if I could afford to buy a car like that, would I think that it would actually be worth the money? 

For that kind of money, there are so many other cars that I could buy instead. Almost every one of them would actually cost a lot less. 

Things in my retirement are not happening quite as I would have hoped them to. 

Surprise, surprise, there's not as much extra money lying around as I thought that there would be! 

I suppose that that's not a surprise to anyone, except me! 

In my older age, I guess the "good enough" mind set has started to take hold. Things just don't impress me as much as they used to.  They just don't seem to be that important. Why do I need anything better? Or newer?

This is an understandable attitude. 

Like my house. It's nice enough, we like the location and the neighborhood. It just needs to be fixed up a little bit.

I don't need a newer, bigger, fancier (more expensive!) place. So why expend any energy dreaming about it? What we've got is plenty good enough.

When it comes to my vehicles, what I've got does the job. Like my truck, and my old Mustang, and my old Explorer. 

These are plenty good enough also. I also actually enjoy each of them.

On my trip to Santa Cruz last week, I passed a guy cruising around Gilroy in a '48 Chevy Lowrider. I had actually met him a couple of years back at the Santa Cruz swap meet. 

I was checking out his car and asked him how long he'd owned it. I was surprised when he told me that he'd only had it around a year. He told me that he had another '48 that had been fixed up really nice and he sold it for a good profit when a buyer made him an offer that he couldn't refuse. So he was starting over with this '48. He was happy and he knew what he wanted. 

I sure wish that I did. 

I could use a newer "family car." Something newer that get's better fuel mileage. I suppose this should take a higher priority over my next Mustang GT,  but both of them can wait for a bit. I don't mind buying a family car provided that it's something that I like. 

I've still got those three Jags which I've kind of lost enthusiasm for. 

I thinking that while I've lost enthusiasm for them, my Wife has has been losing her tolerance for them!

Maybe she's even lost a little of her tolerance for me! 

She didn't say much as I merrily went on my way to acquiring them, but she is starting to lose her patience when she hears me grumbling about them. She has openly wondered why am I messing with them if they aren't making me happy. 

Good question. 

If I don't feel like working on them, she's got lots of other  "suggestions" where I can put my efforts!

I'm starting to see how those other old guys that I see at shows held onto their cars. Once they already had them, they just got tired of thinking about replacing them. Sometimes they sat, while the owner moved on to something else. If they later regained their interest, then maybe the cars would be rebuilt. Sometimes they were kept in running shape. Sometimes they were just ignored. 

If they had started out with a desirable car in this case, they just had to hold onto it.

But the operative word is "desirable." 

Who makes that decision?

I just took my Mustang on another top down, two hundred mile excursion. 

photo source: Brian Butco
Sign identifies the route of the Lincoln Highway at the Summit Garage 
Altamount Calif.

This time I headed east, out towards Mt. Diablo and the Tri Valley area. I followed some back roads as they wound their way through some pretty tony suburban retreats like Blackhawk. I kept going until I reached the remnants of the fabled Lincoln Highway. I went over the Old Altamount Pass Road then down onto Grantline Road. I followed that road all the way into Tracy. 

The only adventure I faced was trying to find an available rest room!

Luckily I found one at a Circle K gas station. On my Son's prior recommendation I bought some of their Krispy Krunch fried chicken and a Mexican Mocha coffee. I sat in the car eating the chicken in the bright warm sun and felt a bit of a connection to that motorcycle riding youth that I once had been. 

On the way back I took a wrong turn on Corral Hollow Rd. enroute to Byron, and ended up making a big circle, ending up in almost the same spot I had started at! I decided on a more direct route and retraced my path on Grantline and the Altamount road. 

It's amazing that the old road is also used as a bypass for highway 580 commuters heading into the Valley from the Bay Area. I passed a long queue of frustrated drivers headed in the opposite direction.

I guess being retired isn't that bad. 

This morning I checked the status of my Jaguar Forum ad for my XJS. 272 views, no replies.

I guess that answers the desirability question.

Friday, April 2, 2021

 Mustang Miles.

This is not an actual photo of the Wife and me!

I've recently put a few miles down on both the Mustangs, the '07 and the '96.

We have been trying to arrange an appointment to get the Covid vaccine. We decided that going all the way to Fresno wasn't such a bad idea.

It was a 300 mile round trip.

Gas prices have been rising, the lowest price that I could find was 3.49 for regular.

My fleet isn't the most fuel efficient bunch, but except for the Explorer, they all get at least 20 real world mpg. 

The best is the '07 V6 Mustang, I've gotten 27 mpg. at my real world cruising speeds of 70-75 mph. 

So it was the choice. 

This was our family car for many years. It has plenty of space, especially for two. On the highway it is powerful and it tracks like it's on rails, a bit better when compared to my '96. It's much the same situation as a comparison between my old Explorer and my newer F150, the Explorer is a bit "busier" on the highway. 

I have to admit that there has been some evolution between the two models. 

I'm not an early adopter, and I don't need all the fancy new gadgets like adaptive cruise control, lane warning systems, automatic braking, even built in Nav. My Wife has her Smartphone queued up if needed! Besides, I already know the way. The only thing things that I really need are cruise control, good a/c, and a stereo "CD" player. I don't need no stinking Bluetooth!

The trip was fine, traffic was light until we were almost all the way home.

My second Mustang trip was just for pleasure. I'd been wanting to take my '96 for a nice ride to see if I still found the car to be fun and satisfactory. My plan was to put the top down and take a route that was primarily comprised of country back roads.

If you've lived in a particular area for a long time like I have, you know that it takes a bit of driving just to get out of the immediate well known area. I've been driving around the greater Bay Area now for fifty years! 

The road that connects the valley town of Gilroy, with the coastal town of Santa Cruz is SR 152. After you leave the US101 you'll pass through the heart of the city, then the narrow suburban belt. The road twists and turns through the woods as it crests the summit of Hecker Pass and Mt. Madonna. The road is a tight, curvy climb up the Eastern slope until crossing the ridge that opens to a beautiful view of the Coastal Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

I had been taking it easy on the way up, pulling over and letting impatient drivers pass by. Once over the crest I picked up the pace and had a great time safely slaloming down the hill.

I had put the top down when I left the house, the first time in many many months. I was depending on the heater to keep it comfortable. It was almost warm enough, but I really should have worn a heavier jacket. When I first became aware of sports cars back in the early 1960's, their drivers never put the tops up. There were snap on tonneau covers for the passenger compartment and heavy "car coats" worn by the drivers. Caps and gloves too.

I've had a couple of real sports cars in the past, my Z cars fit that definition in my eyes. I've never considered my Mustang to be an actual sports car, though as a convertible and as one of the smaller incarnations of the breed, it comes closer to that definition. 

However if the main criteria is whether or not the vehicle is driven for fun, and is fun to drive, then it more than makes the grade. 

After I got to Highway One I compromised by putting up the side windows. It did make a difference, although it was only in the low 60's. That's cold for us spoiled Bay Area dwellers. 

Back in the Day I when I rode my motorcycles, I would nave considered it to be good biking weather.

Once I passed the Santa Cruz Co. fairgrounds I wasn't ready to head back yet,  so I turned onto Castroville road.

Once through Castroville, I took SR156 towards Monterey. This is a high speed freeway for a distance, than it morphs into a two way coastal highway as it nears Monterey. 

I passed through Monterey then continued on to Moss Landing, the home of the big power generating plant. The tall chimneys are visible from a long way off. Then I took Dolan Road east, which becomes highway 68, almost all the way to Salinas. This road passes by the Laguna Seca Raceway. When I reached Speckles road I figured why not? I'd never been through that little town. It was a short detour.

Once I reached Salinas I got onto US 101 for the final stretch home. 

There were longer routes that I had wanted to take, like Carmel Valley Rd. I'll just save those for another time. The Monterey peninsula has a great selection of back roads, many that I've never been on, or maybe only once or twice. 

There are a lot of back road Day trips that I can put together in this area. It is a pleasant challenge to find smaller, less used roads. This reminds me of the days when I'd take off on my Honda 160 and explore. It was happiest on back roads, it wasn't the kind of bike that you would use to drone down the Interstate. 

As expected, it was generally a mellow experience. My Mustang is generally kind of a mellow machine. It just rolls along effortlessly. 

Was it the right tool for the job? Yes. It is very well suited to these types of activities.  

I don't need or want some super hot machine. Just a good sounding, fun to drive convertible. I want the convenience and relaxing nature of an automatic transmission. I'm not planning to race anyone. The car can cruise at any speed that I choose. 

It is actually just what I need and want. 

I got a bit of a kick out of this ad.

Newsflash! Tonight I listed my Jaguar XJS for sale on the Jaguar Forums. I've talked a lot about wanting to move forward, but it mostly has just been talk. I did a lot of soul searching and decided to finally put events into motion. I will make further updates on future blog posts. 

I'm curious to see what the response will be like.