Home is on the Horizon

I see Arizona in the distance. 

Literally, that is Arizona about 35 miles toward those mountains.

We left Carlsbad, NM shortly after 7 a.m.  but I decided to change the route going south, then west through El Paso and into New Mexico. I looked at a satillite image of the north, then west route and it appeared many mountains and possible steep grades might not be such a good route. So, we took Rt. 62 southward then west but was met by some unexpected and very steep inclines as we crossed the Guadalupe Mountains. In overdrive the car slows to a crawl at the steepest points. To help get us up those slopes, I sped up on the downgrades which did help carry me up the next grade. But as the grades steepness increased, I stopped, disengaged the overdrive and used the direct drive with the transmission. That worked well and more effectively tackled those steep grades. 

Coming down into El Paso, I had tried to avoid getting on I-10 and used a bypass road, that, to my dismay, I could see after some driving distance that it was going up what looked like a long, steep grade up the mountains. Having no other choice, I again shifted out of the overdrive and into the transmission. That did the trick as Phiona steadily attacked the incline, slowly increasing speed as she carried us up to the top and then down the other side. Confusion about the route and road numbers, unfortunately led us on to the the dreaded I-10 which was swarming with traffic, not to mention we were then headed east not west as we should have been going. Once we realized the mistake we did an about face and headed west, but I opted to just stay on the interstate, as the road was in good shape and it did, after all, take us West as intended. Further out of the city, the traffic spread out and it was much easier going. We then stayed on I-10 all the way to Lordsburg, NM where we exited onto US-70. Initially I planned to stop in Deming for the night, but it was hardly noon at that point so I went on to Lordsburg, whch was only another hour up the road. So, with plenty of daylight, I pressed on to the the next town, Duncan, AZ. Well, ok, now I had gained another hour coming into Arizona and it was just past 2 p.m. That meant I had plenty more daylight to burn as Duncan was hardly a town and what there was of it was decrepit. Needless to say, there were no motels. So, onward to Safford, AZ which had several motel choices. But, again, more dayight to burn, so why not press on? We rested and Phiona joined us as I contemplated if I should go all the way - back to Phoenix. 

Back in the car again, aiming for home, and the sun shining in my eyes, I started to rethink going the whole way. I had driven this road through the mountains in the dark in a modern vehicle and remembered all too well. The road. that night,  was thick with trucks from the copper mines in Globe and Miami and they literally raced those curves and grades. That was a frightful night drive and I had no desire to even attempt it with a 1934 Pontiac in the dark.

With the sun now rapidly setting behind the mountains, I opted for safety and we have stopped here in Globe for the night. Now we can take our time in the morning and complete this roadtrip in safety plus avoid the heat and any vapor locking. It will be about 100 miles to home which allows us time to kick back and then get Richard to the airport well in advance of his evening flight.

Phiona ran very well today. The overdrive has been a very wise and good investment.

We had one incident of vapor lock as we were leaving a fuel stop.  So, I pulled aside, lifted the hoods and we got some sandwiches from the shop and sat on the running board in the shade allowing Phiona to cool off enough for us to continue. In little less than an hour I figured she was ready to go and with the help of some starting fluid she fired up and we hit the road. The rest of the trip went without problems.

I have many thoughts about this latest road trip adventure. In a future posting I will share them with readers.

Run Indian, RUN.  Chief Pontiac is right behind you...

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Ahhh, what a nice morning!

Having the car rest overnight was good for her and me. I replaced a blown fuse that controls the solenoid. Once we left Graham, TX and were out on this road, we were welcomed by a very pretty sunrise. This I took as a harbinger of a good day ahead. And it was.

Our destination today was Carlsbad, NM, 368 miles. Most of the drive was on TX 180 all the way into Carlsbad. We made good time running along about 60 mph most of the way. New Mexico, being on Mountain Daylight Time gave us an hour. Phiona ran beautifully. Upon arriving in Carlsbad we drove directly to the Carlsbad Caverns and took a self guided tour that covered one mile and took us over an hour. Seeing the unusual and fantastic formations in the caverns was a welcome change from the other distractions of the past several days.

Phiona started to buck and stall as I started out after taking this picture by the sign. But, I coaxed her along and slowly she recovered and regained her composure, allowing us to drive up the mountain drive to the Caverns entrance. It was already near 4 p.m. and no ranger led tours were available so we took the self guided tour, one of the last of the day. When we returned to Phiona she started right up but then stalled again. I had thought that by sitting over an hour that any vapor lock issue would be avoided. I guess I was wrong. With my starting fluid sprayed into the carb, the engine finally roar to life and stayed running. From there back to town there were no more issues. 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, we drive to White Sands Park by way of Alamagordo, NM, then to our scheduled stop in Deming, NM. If time permits, I may drive a bit further to shave off some time on Thursday. Thursday is when Richard flies out of Phoenix to Detroit. I think I will be able to make it to the airport in time to drop him off on my way home.



If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another...

Well, that doesn’t look good, does it?

The day was going along very smoothly, our roads were all very good, smooth sailing all the way. I was very pleased with the overdrive as it performed perfectly,  so much so, I began to think another long distance road trip might be possible, but not across country. I think I’ve had my fill of cross country road trips.

Our destination today was Graham, TX, but about 45 miles out, Phiona quit running. I slowly coaxed her along, sometimes the engine seemed engaged but then it was just coasting as I brought her to the side of the road. Since the started turned over the motor, it had to be fuel related. It was near time to refuel, but I was confident the next town, Jacksboro would be our next refuel stop. Having had this happen in the past I was quite sure it was vapor lock, so we raised the hood to let in cooler air (it was in the upper 80’s, maybe 90’s today). It was very windy all the time we were in Texas, so the wind, I think, hastened the cool down. 

Within minutes of pulling off the road, two fellows stopped and offered help. Since it apperred to be fuel related they said they would go ahead to Jacksboro for fuel. They were hardly out of sight when another young man stopped to offer assistance and he went back to the previous town for gas. Then another neighbor stopped and offered help, then another, and then another. Two of those were neighbors who offered to return in an hour to check up on our situation. All were enthralled with Phiona and were all too happy to spend time chatting with me. What the heck I had no where else to go, and I was very taken by everyone’s generosity, helpfulness, and graciousness. I am humbled by the kindness of these fine Texans.

Once we had added the gasoline, it took a little coaxing with starting fluid to start up the engine again. But it did start and stayed running. The two guys then offered to follow us the 45 miles to Graham where we are staying tonight. They offered that we buy no ethanol gasoline at a station that sold it. But I opted to continue using unleaded. After that, I pulled aside to look underneath the car to check the overdrive and transmission fluid levels, both of which were full. A call to Glenn, the mechanic in Circleville, OH, to get his opinion, and he thought Lloyd Young, the 86 year old who sold the unit to me would have an idea why it stopped working. Lloyd called me and  offered that it had to be electrical and asked me to check a fuse. The fuse was blown that controls two solenoids, a light mounted on my steering column indicated the solenoid is working and engages the overdrive.. Replacing the blown fuse, then, at least, made the indicator light shine, which should mean the solenoid is working. But by then it was dark, I was at the end of my wits and just plain tired. A test drive in the morning may reveal if the overdrive will function - or not. It is also possible the little rod inside the overdrive that prevented the unit from engaging when it was installed last week in Circelville might have become stuck again, possibly because of the heat and that it may have expanded causing it to hang up. I hope that by cooling down overnight, it might slide in and out again and allow the overdrive to slip into gear. This is not something that is easily accessible and may need to wait until I am home in Phoenix.

The good news is that we are not dead in the water. The transmission is fully operational and we may need to just rely of it to complete this journey. 

Tomorrow is another day, and I will still try to keep swimming.

But, yes, I am disappointed and frustrated.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Being only an hour’s drive from Little Rock, Hot Springs, Arkansas was a quick trip this morning. Although after arriving here we found the traffic was very heavy in the historic part of the city and where I wanted to explore. At first glance I wasn’t so sure I’d like this place, but I was determined to find interesting things to do. One item I had to experience was a spa treatment hoping to feel some relief and relaxation after the past several days. 

And I did.

We found a hotel near where I was able to park on the street and although I had hoped to possibly stay at the historic Arlington Hotel, The Springs Hotel and Spa was also a good choice. After some walking up the street along Bathhouse Row, we returned to The Springs Hotel and reserved a room for tonight. 

Only two of the old bathhouses still offer the spa treatments. But so did The Springs Hotel which would make it very convenient for me to get the thing I wanted most while in Hot Springs. Richard is not into this sort of thing preferring to find other things to do. Since they had an opening at that moment I choose to stay and begin this new experience for me - my gift to myself.

A hot soak in a large old bathtub began the treatment. This tub also had a jet aparatus that allowed me to turn around and have it massage my lower back. While trying to tolerate the hot water, I felt I should have had something to eat as I was beginning to feel somewhat queazy. Though I tried to stick out my 20 minute soak, I really did start to feel faint. Best course of action was to vacate the tub and lie down on the cot in the room. Stepping out of the tub, I really felt unsteady, but carefully transferred myself to the bed and lie down to try to cool off. The attendant finally arrived, me being overheated and sweating profusely and not much cooled down. He led me to a shower that helped lower my body temp. Following that is the “cooling” where I lay on another bed but was then covered in several hot wet blankets which seemed counter intuitive, but actually did gradually start to cool my overheated body. Still perspiring and then wrapped in a robe I was able to further cool off on a bed in another room. Finally the massager came and led me to his massage table where I received a 20 minute massage. Amazingly, after that, I did feel more refreshed but not tired. 

Richard and I toured one of the old bathhouses that is now Hot Springs Park Headquarters. Visitors are allowed to tour the premises and see how the place operated in its’ heyday. For many, many years, the belief was that the hot springs waters and treatment were cures for many ailments. If nothing else, it had to be a relaxing experience. The prime time for Hot Springs was in the early 20th century, peaking in the 20’s and 30’s. By the late 40’s most of the former bathhouses had quit business. The Park Service maintains the buildings, some of them repurposed, but still very attractive and elegant. In the day, guests were treated royally, with sitting rooms to mix with other patrons, men and women had separate sides in the bathhouses, but the royal treatment was extended to both sexes. Some of the accommodations were posh with stained glass ceilings, very comfortable seating, music and very attentive staff. No wonder people liked to come to the bathhouses. Now I more fully understand “spending a day at the spa”.

Feeling ready to go exploring I hiked up Hot Springs Mountain atop which is a very tall observation tower. It was a sweat inducing endeavor in the warm, humid conditions today. The views were good with some Fall colors dotting  the heavy forest below. I returned via another trail and explored more along bathhouse row.

Tomorrow morning we plan to leave Hot Springs as early as possible and end the day in Graham, TX 377 miles away.

I am loving the overdrive on Phiona. It amazes me how much less engine noise is heard when in overdrive. Yesterday before arriving in Little Rock, we drove over 160 uninterrupted miles during which I tried to keep it below 65 mph. While my speedometer read 40/42 I was actually going 60 mph ( have a speedometer app on my cell phone that shows me the actual speed, plus records the miles driven among other things). 

Since we lost a day and a half last week and with today’s rest, we will not arrive back to Phoenix until Thursday. Richard has a flight scheduled for Thursday early evening. It may mean driving directly to the airport. I’m hoping for no interuptions or unforeseen problems. With driving distances around 314 to 377 per day, we should be on the road around 8 hours per day.

Back on the Road Again


Not having had much time to update my blog, this will update readers on my cross country trip (again) with my 1934 Pontiac, “Phiona”.

Wednesday started out well and I felt fairly hopeful that this trip with the newly installed overdrive would present me no problems or ones that were manageable. My brother in law Richard is accompanying me and all seemed well until we were 209 miles away in Fairfield/Hamilton, Ohio when, starting out from a stop and shifting into first gear, all I heard was grinding. A second attempt produced the same unsettling sound. This can’t we good, I thought. Allowing the car to coast into a parking lot, I tried again and still the awful grinding noise. Hanging my head, I slumped over the steering wheel - not AGAIN!                                

A few moments of just absorbing the situation, my first call was to Lloyd Young in Canal Winchester, OH, from whom I had bought the overdrive. He had me contact Glenn Metzler in Circleville, OH who did the actual work installing it in my car. Both offered that I get the car to Glenn 112 miles to the East. Next, the call to AAA to get a flatbed truck to come fetch us and take us to Circleville. Nearly an hour later, a tow truck arrived telling us about 6 other companies had turned down the job because they were afraid of loading and hauling an antique car. This driver, however, was a true ‘\"car guy” and, though young was fearless in taking on the task. 

Glenn met us at his machine shop near sunset, where we unloaded Phiona and put her up on the lift. There it was discovered that a plate, basically a spacer to fit the unit to the driveshaft and rear differential, had a broken weld that caused the unit to move and thus damage some gears which prevented it from engaging. 

Glenn and his wife Mary offered to host us as houseguests while the repairs were being done, a very generous and gracious gift to us poor, stranded travelers.

I should mention that Lloyd Young is 86 years old and reconditions old Borg Warner overdrives, updating them to work electronically, not manually. Unknownst to me beforehand, I found his wife Shirley had passed about 3 weeks ago and Lloyd had just been released from hospital for his own health issues. I had met Shirley in June when we took Phiona to them to install the overdrive. She was an avid “car person” and was an AACA judge for nearly 60 years, plus she had an incredible collection of vintage cars at their home in Canal Winchester. I felt bad for coming back to Lloyd under such trying times for him, but he was very anxious to remedy the situation so that we could get back on the road without further difficulties.

The next day, Thursday, Glenn and his helper Bob disassembled the unit from the car, finding the damages. We then traveled to Lloyd’s place and picked up a new overdrive that Lloyd had already prepped. It measured slightly differently which would require some machining of parts to provide an exact, tight fit. After all the machining, shaving off metal on a lathe, they had the parts fitting precisely. By early afternoon it was reassembled and time for a test drive. Unfortunately it would not shift into overdrive. Calls to Lloyd went unaswered, so Glenn tired to figure out the problem on his own. Back to the shop, further tinkering, second test drive, again - no go. Once again, back up on the lift, further inspection and adjusting. Third time is always a charmer they say. Well, not so in this case. Again, calls to Lloyd went unanswered, for surely Lloyd would have a good idea of why this unit was not working. Talk also included installing the former base unit back in Phiona, but it was after dark by then and it was time to let it rest overnight.

Later that night Lloyd did call Glenn back and told him a small rod, accessible from under a freeze plug was the likely gremlin holding up the proper working of the overdrive. Glenn doubted that, but the next morning (now Friday)  we returned to the shop, and found that tiny little rod was hung up and not releasing completely. After working it back and forth numerous times it finally seated itself and then functioned as intended. The next test drive was perfect, and allowed us to then quickly get back to our travels. 

Of course, I had to re-route us to try to make up for the lost time, including the drive on the Ohio River Scenic Byway, following the Ohio River on the Indiana side to near Louisville, KY. Instead we drove across most of Southern Indiana on US-50 and ended the day in Grayville, Illinois.

And so, now Saturday evening and we have made it to Little Rock, Arkansas for tonight. It was a very pleasant day for driving. And did I ever drive - 472 miles! That is quite a daily distance in a 1934 Pontiac. Yesterday, we drove from Circleville, OH to Grayville, IL  in the south of that state. Today I drove from 7:20 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with lunch stop and fuel stops of course, including a stop at Cave in Rock, IL where there is a huge limestone cave along the Ohio River, where, reputedly, bandits and others of ill repute once preyed on unsuspecting river travelers. But the best part of Cave In Rock was crossing the Ohio River on a ferry. They even waited for me when they saw us driving toward the launch dock. The ferry ride was free, much to my surprise. A day driving along scenic rural roads, rolling hills, some Fall color and then another (bridge this time) crossing of the Ohio into Cairo, IL and returning across another bridge over the Mississippi. Cairo is where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge.

One of the best parts of the day was driving nearly non-stop on US-67 from Pocahontas, AR to Little Rock, AR. With an initial plan to stop today in Searcy, AR. but, not being tired, and trying to make up time, I decided to burn daylight and continue on to Little Rock instead. Initially I had been driving between 55 -58 mph, but this afternoon I bumped it up to 60+ and Phiona with her overdrive just purred along. It is nice to drive without all the engine noise when in direct drive.

Tomorrow the plan is to hit Hot Springs, AR. where I just may spend the day, maybe getting a spa treatment, mineral bath and mud wrap. 

I think Phiona may have a case of the vapors, however, as she refused to start after registering at the motel tonight. That would be vapor lock. At least I HOPE that is why she is not starting. I’ll try not to stress too much tonight and just see what happens in the morning….


Trip Delayed

200 miles into the trip, near Hamilton, Ohio, the overdrive crapped out. 

Called Lloyd Young in Canal Winchester who I bought the unit from and he had me call his machinist, Glenn Metzlet who installed the unit. Called AAA, hauled the car 112 miles to Circleville, OH to Glenn’s shop. 

The next day, spent all day installing a new unit but it failed to engage after 3 trial runs.

Now Friday, and will head back to the shop and try to figure it out.

More to come

The Cross Country Journey Begins..

A tree lined street in Ann Arbor, MI

As many are already aware, the cross-country drive with my 1934 Pontiac (Phiona) is now ready to roll.

My brother-in-law, Richard, will be sharing the ride with me all the way from Gibsonburg, Ohio in the northwestern section of the state all the way to my home in Phoenix, AZ.

I have mapped out an 8 day journey that will head south to Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Illinois, Missoui, Arkansas, Oklahome, Texas, New Mexico and then back to Ariizona.

At the gates to “The Big House”, U of Michigan football stadium

Early Fall Color in Northwest Ohio