LOCO Spring Driver 2023, Part II

Saturday, May 20

The “free” breakfast at this hotel was out of the ordinary: build your own breakfast burritos. Soft corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, and green chili. Unfortunately, the corn tortilla wasn’t up to the job: any attempt to pick it up to eat it resulted in catastrophic containment failure. It was far from the best breakfast burrito I’ve had, but compared to the “free” hotel breakfasts I’ve had on my last couple of trips, it was a step up.

Today’s plan for the group was to spend the morning at the Colorado National Monument. We’d have our picnic lunch at the visitor center, departing at 12:30.

I had to get my brake caliper bolt taken care of. I went to the place around the corner but it was deserted. I got the phone out and searched for another place. I went there, it was also closed. The next one was an address that turned out to be smack in the middle of a mobile home park. Fourth, fifth, and sixth places all closed. All of these shops were within a couple of miles of each other. Searching for another shop was a bit like doom scrolling: closed, closed, closed.

That left me with few choices. I could go to the local Walmart or a new car dealer. I elected to try the local Buick dealer. Yes, in retrospect, I would have saved myself some time by trying to call all those places, but I thought it would be easier just to show up rather than trying to describe my issue.

I did have to describe the issue to the Buick dealer and that resulted in being put on hold while the person who answered my call talked to a service writer. I didn’t bother telling them what kind of car I was driving, just that I need this thing done pronto and that I could do it myself in ten minutes if I had the tools. They said they could help me out, so off I went.

Luckily, they weren’t busy. Naturally, they were surprised to see a Lotus. Every new car dealer service department I’ve been to has a protocol they follow: log the VIN in their system, get my name and address and mileage of the car. A guy even wanted to plug a tool into the OBDII port, but the service writer told him not to bother. When they went to take it to the shop, I was asked if it was a manual transmission. These days, nobody knows how to drive stick, so it took them another minute to get someone who could work a manual transmission to move it.

I took a seat in their lounge and waited, wondering both how long it would take and how much they’d charge me. I was a bit surprised when, half an hour later, the service writer came to the lounge to give me my keys.

I asked him, “What’s the damage?”

“No charge.”

Wow. That was better than I could have expected.

Lacking the notes for the trip, I relied on my phone to navigate me to the Colorado National Monument. There are two entrances. The group’s plan was to enter through the southern one and exit through the northern one. Naturally, my phone directed me to the northern one. I didn’t realize this until I started seeing familiar cars going the other way.

I wanted to take a couple of very short hikes. One was right after the entrance I was supposed to use and the other about midway through the drive. Due to all my running around, I didn’t have time to go all the way to the other end, do the hikes, and make it to our picnic spot in the allotted time. So I just did the second, shorter hike. It’s all good: at least I got out of the car and walked about a mile.

This short hike starts near the Coke Ovens overlook. There’s a much longer trail here as well, but I just headed to a spot right next to the Coke Ovens rock formation. It’s about half a mile from the road to the end, and descends a bit less than two hundred feet. The other trail here is the Independence Monument trail. I encountered a German couple who were on their way up. “It is much farther than you’re going, and it’s quite hot!” There is an entire network of trails around here which might be more fun in April when it’s not so hot. (Not that today was hot, but the sun was shining brightly, and it looks like there is very little shade to be found.)

After my little hike, I went back to the visitor center to find the rest of the group for our picnic. I left the picnic a few minutes early. Everybody else had been able to gas up in the morning. I needed a pit stop. Rather than leave with the group only to be abandoned at a gas station, I left early. I record my fuel consumption every time I fill up. I made my notes and was a bit surprised that this last tank yielded me 36.6 miles per gallon. When I looked up from my phone, I saw a green Europa pass by and get on the highway. But I only saw the one car, and I think he joined us midway through the day yesterday, so I thought maybe he was heading off on his own.

I fired up the car and hit the highway. We had a few miles of interstate to deal with, so I got on the highway and established a leisurely pace, five or ten miles an hour under the limit. This was a calculated risk. If I had missed seeing 20 brightly colored cars passing the gas station, I’d be getting farther and farther behind. Without directions. If the Europa was on his own, the group would catch me and all would be good.

Before long, I saw a long line of brightly colored cars in my mirror. I was back in the pack!

After our stint on the interstate, we finally would be driving on roads I’d never traveled. I love new roads. This one goes over Grand Mesa and is called the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. Wikipedia tells me that Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.

Sometime after we left the interstate and started climbing the Mesa, I spotted Ross driving the other way. What the? How did he get ahead of us, and why was he going the other way? A few turns later, I found out why. It turns out the green Europa wasn’t off on his own, he was at the tail of a group of cars who left before Mike. They were all, except Ross, parked on the side of the road. Well, not exactly the side of the road. They were as far off the road as they could get, which wasn’t far. Everybody’s left tires were still on the road.

Chris W. had his 4-way flashers on and everybody was out of their cars. We learned that they came around a bend to find some large rocks on the road. One rock was described as the size of your head. Ross hit it, the next car managed to miss it, and Chris W. hit it. Ross couldn’t continue and took his car back to the last town while the gang set to work attempting to patch Chris’s tire. They tried a couple of plugs, but there was no way they could fix it.

Cindy lives not terribly far from here, and she has a full set of tires mounted and balanced, so she went home to get a tire so Chris could continue. The rest of us continued on our way.

Next to hitting a giant rock on the road, my brake caliper bolt and Jeff’s windshield wiper were minor inconveniences.

Before we stopped, the day had been downright toasty. This incident with the rock was at high elevation, though, and I was happy to put on my hoodie. I’d taken the top off the car before our picnic. Now we were at elevation and the clear skies were getting less clear. At 50mph with the top off, it was starting to get chilly. Then, of course, it started to rain. It wasn’t a hard rain, seldom enough to require more than the intermittent wiper setting. But I was getting wet, and that rain was cold!

At our next stop, in Hotchkiss, the three of us who had been running topless all decided it might be better to put the tops back on. It was a sound decision. Before long the rain was coming down hard. In places, it seemed like small rivers were crossing the road. I never hydroplaned, but it was wet and I was happy to be dry. Well, as dry as one can be in an Elise in the rain.

Checking into the hotel, I was standing next to Mike. He asked a question I never thought I’d hear from a Lotus driver: “Did you get enough curves?” Well, it wasn’t so much the question that was unexpected, as that after asking it, he said he did.

With our extended stop on the side of the road, we arrived at our hotel in Gunnison a bit later than expected. We got checked in and a few minutes later made our separate ways to the restaurant. Before our orders had arrived, Cindy, Chris, and their companions showed up at the restaurant, to much applause. We were all happy to see them.

Sunday, May 21

My hotel room was not the best one. I am right across the hall from the elevator. I thought that would be the worst part about it, but I am also directly above the lobby. The problem with that is, I could hear the front doors open and close whenever anybody came or went. I tried to use the fan on air conditioning unit to mask the noise, but the controls were slightly broken. Slightly, in that the temperature control knob just turned and turned but didn’t affect the output. And of the six or seven positions on the fan control knob, only “Cool High” and “Stop” were working. The fan did cover the noise of the doors downstairs, but after about twenty minutes, icicles were starting to form so I had to shut it off.

I woke up for a short while a bit after 2 am. You might think nobody would be going in and out through the lobby at that time of night, but you’d be wrong. I did manage to fall back asleep and just before I woke up, I had an odd little dream. In the dream, I was in my living room at home when a small bus crashed into the house. I asked the driver what happened and she pointed to a woman in the seat behind her. “She had a heart attack!” This is dream logic in effect. A passenger on the bus has a heart attack and causes an accident.

Over breakfast, I asked Ross how badly damaged his car is. He said the oil pan was okay and that he wasn’t losing any fluids. He thinks the exhaust was crushed, causing too much back pressure. The car ran, but only at an idle. He could drive downhill, but it was no good uphill or on the level. He managed to get it down to the safety of a parking lot at the Powderhorn ski area.

Today we were back on familiar roads. We’d head east from Gunnison and take CO 114 to Saguache. The plan for the group was to take US 285 to US 50 and ultimately picnic at the Royal Gorge. Before we left the hotel, I was undecided whether I’d stay with everybody else or head home from Salida. As the morning went on, I developed a slight headache. That was the deciding factor.

Here’s a short video made up of footage I shot over the three days. Oh, and cleaning out the car after I got home, I found my route notes. They managed to hide themselves under the passenger seat.

Here’s another video. I left this one in 360 mode, so you can pan and scroll and zoom. It’s a part of Glenwood Canyon between two of the tunnels. I’m old enough to have some memory of this canyon before it was interstate, when it was a two-lane road. The canyon is quite scenic and unlike any other canyon in the state.

Way back when, there was a movement to get the 1976 Winter Olympics to Colorado. As part of this, there was a ballot initiative asking voters if they wanted to put the interstate through the canyon. I may be misremembering, but it was defeated, and we couldn’t get the Olympic Games without the highway. Nonetheless, they started working on putting I-70 through the canyon in 1980. It was completed in 1992, and it’s a marvel of highway engineering and has been featured in at least one book published by National Geographic extolling the work. The project required 30 million pounds of structural steel, 30 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and 400,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 1.62 billion pounds.

It’s a fantastic stretch of road, but it’s not without problems. Quite often, there are rockslides that damage the road and cause closures. These have been more common recently, due to wildfires in the area. The living trees hold the soil together, and with the trees dead or gone, any severe rains tend to cause rockslides.

LOCO Spring Drive 2023, Part 1

Every year, the club does a couple of long weekend drives, typically one in the spring and one in the fall. Years ago, we used to call them the “Colorado Good”, a play on the name of the Colorado Grand, an annual classic car charity tour.

Friday, May 19

Our rally point this morning is the Love’s gas station on the north side of Buena Vista. I figured it would take two and a half hours to get there, and I added a few minutes in case I hit the tail end of morning rush hour traffic.

Colorado weather is notoriously changeable. A common remark is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Yes, I’ve heard people in other places say similar things, but Colorado is truly a “four seasons in one day” kind of place.

Today it is rainy. It’s an “upslope”, meaning it’s coming more from the east or northeast, and by going west, I would be able to get out of the rain and into the sunshine. I was thinking things would clear up at Kenosha pass, but that was optimistic. On the west side of Trout Creek pass, one usually sees a gorgeous view of Mt. Princeton and the other peaks in the Collegiate range. Today, though, the clouds hung low over the Arkansas valley and if you didn’t know there were mountains right in front of you, well, you wouldn’t know.

We met at our assembly point. On the way there from Colorado Springs, Jeff had his windshield wiper fly off his car. Will and Kat were behind him when it happened. When Will and Kat pulled into the gas station and got out of the car, they saw that Jeff’s wiper was sticking out of their front grille. What are the chances?

Our first stop was a photo opportunity at Twin Lakes. Again, normally you’d see some majestic peaks from here. The ceiling was lifting somewhat, but the tops of the mountains are still shrouded.

At Twin Lakes

From there, we went back to US 24 and headed north, over Tennessee pass.

Tennessee pass crosses the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,424’. It climbs only 272 feet from Leadville and descends 1.826 vertical feet to Redstone. It was the first Continental Divide highway pass that was kept open all winter, starting in 1928.

Zebulon Pike came this way in 1806.

On November 24, he and three others set off from their camp near Pueblo to climb to the summit of Pike’s Peak. On the fourth day of their climb, they were in waist-deep snow but they reckoned they were still 15 or 16 miles away from the summit, still a mile above them. They turned back. They concluded the peak was the highest on the continent with an elevation of 18,541’ and that “no human being could have ascended to its pinnacle”.

After he failed to summit his peak, the expedition continued and he found himself in South Park. He crossed Trout Creek Pass and worked upstream along the Arkansas, which he had incorrectly identified as the Red. By his reckoning, the Arkansas stopped more than eighty miles to the south. To the north, he expected to find the Platte, and just past the Platte, the Yellowstone. Pike stopped near Mount Elbert, a bit short of Tennessee Pass. His men were tired and didn’t want to go any further. It was December, after all. No doubt, conditions were rough. He wasn’t lost but didn’t really know where he was.

Thirty-nine years later, John Frémont (who would later become the first Republican candidate for president) was the first to cross Tennessee pass. Ostensibly, his mission was to map the area around Bent’s Fort on the high plains of what is now southeastern Colorado. The credulous might believe he was lost, too. But his real goal was Monterey, California on behalf of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, with a view to national expansion. California was still Mexico until it was the spoils of war the following year.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at an I-70 rest stop. I had printed our six pages of directions for the trip, including our hotel and restaurant information and Mike’s nice route description. I had the cameras in the passenger seat of the car, so I tossed the notes on top of them to sort of hide things from casual snooping.

After lunch, we headed west on I-70. Most of the gang got off the super slab to follow Cindy on a tour of some back roads. Normally, I’d be down for that but I kept on the interstate. Once I was on my own, I thought it would be a good idea to find out just where I’m headed. Somehow, I was now missing the notes. How the heck did that happen? (Odder, the notes are clearly visible in a video taken while driving on I-70. So I didn’t leave them at the rest stop.)

I wasn’t the only one who didn’t follow Cindy. Will and Kat passed me before long. They’d have stayed behind me, but I waved them by. It would have been embarrassing to miss the exit for the hotel. Just after they passed, the car acted funny for a few seconds. At first, I had a moment of panic: did I just blow a fuse? But that wasn’t the case, and all was well again very quickly. I later figured out what happened.

When we got off the highway, I ended up following Will and Kat through a fast food drive-through. They didn’t stop either but went to a different restaurant. I decided to quit stalking them and struck off for the hotel on my own. I only made one wrong turn.

I later had a chat with Cindy, who led the non-interstate tour. None of her route was in the notes, and things got complicated when she experienced a little mechanical trouble. She doesn’t know what happened, but she momentarily had neither brakes nor clutch. The clutch pedal went straight to the floor. Both systems use the same reservoir, so it’s not surprising an issue with one might cause an issue with the other. She had the rest of the gang go ahead without her. A few minutes later, both clutch and brakes were back to normal. She’s local to that area, so she managed to take a different route and rejoin the others by getting ahead of them.

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called Enzo’s. I could ask Mike, who did his usual stellar job of planning and leading the group, if he chose the restaurant because of the name. If that was the case, he might deserve some grief: Enzo is Ferrari, not Lotus.

Getting off the highway, it felt like I was applying the brakes. I realized now that this is what happened when Will and Kat passed me earlier. This same thing happened on the way home from Atlanta. One of the bolts holding my right rear brake caliper in place had worked itself out. It didn’t come out completely as the parking brake cable is in the way, but it was out far enough for the caliper to occasionally be cockeyed on the disk. This happened years ago on the left side. That time, the bolt came completely out. I’m surprised this one happened again, but the caliper has other issues and I’ll be replacing it in the coming days.

In any event, the fix is an easy one. All I need to do is jack the car up, dismount the right rear wheel, get the caliper into place, and tighten the bolt. The only problem with this plan is I lack a jack and any way to remove the wheel. I got online and looked for any auto shops that would be open on a Saturday morning and found one right around the corner from the hotel. They open at 8, so I should be back on the road fairly quickly.

The Atlanta Saga – Rear View Mirror

I’ve been back home for a week now, and have had time to reflect on my experience.

First, I have to thank Jayne and Dan. I would not have seriously considered this trip without their kind offer to put me up (and put up with me) while I was in Atlanta. They are two of the finest people I have the privilege to know. Their hospitality was much appreciated and their moral support kept me on an even keel while all my plans crumbled around me.

Thanks also to all the random people who helped me and who tried to help me. I’ve known for quite a while that one of the important aspects of my track days is the sense of community. We all get together to share a common passion, and we come to each other’s aid when possible. Although nobody was able to direct me to someone who could fix my car and salvage the rest of the trip, it wasn’t for lack of effort. I don’t necessarily expect this level of support from random strangers, but I sure got it from Reuben when I was stranded out of sight on the side of a Tennessee highway.

Last but not least, thanks to Ryan who went out of his way to squeeze me into his already heavy work schedule. He was confident that it would be a relatively easy fix and went the extra mile to see that I was back on the road (and the track) quickly. He was correct: it was an easy fix; a wire was chafed, causing a short.

I think the Toyota dealer in Atlanta would have been able to find and fix the issue if I had been able to provide them with a wiring diagram. Generals are always getting prepared for the last war. In that vein, I’m going to get a thumb drive I can add to my keychain and put the service manual, wiring diagram, and parts manual on it.

Ryan got me running again, and now Michael and I need to do some maintenance to make sure I can stop: it’s time for brake pads all the way around and disks in the rear, as well as replacing a failing brake caliper on the right rear. And I’ll take it to a windshield repair shop to see if they can fix my nasty rock chip. She won’t be “as good as new” – she’ll join the 100,000-mile club in a few weeks – but she’ll be ready for the next adventure.

Finally, some stats. The trip totaled 3,254 total miles, only 71 of which were on the track.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 8

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The case this weekend was the opposite, but the same. I took the one more traveled by road, and that made all the difference. Gawd how I hate the interstates.

April 15

I had about an hour of nice back roads for the start of the drive, but after that, it was one interstate after another: I-75, I-24, I-57, I-64, and finally I-70. And there was a detour for construction on I-24, so I also collected I-440.

I-75 is three lanes all the way to Tennessee. I had the aforesaid detour in addition to a couple of dozen active projects. Not active today, they don’t work on Saturdays, but they all have lane diversions and concrete barriers.

Toward the end of the day, the road surface was pretty good in Missouri. I spent most of the day trying to minimize the number of patches I drove over. The occupants of the giant land yachts passing me surely were in the comfort of their living rooms, but with my low-profile tires, stiff springs, and wafer-thin upholstery, I’m certainly more sensitive to bad roads than most travelers. I’m not saying the back roads are all well-paved, but it’s clear that the heavy truck traffic on the interstates takes a toll on the road surfaces.

Another difference between the interstates and the back roads is the detritus. In a mile or two of interstates, I see more tire carcasses than all day on the back roads. I saw half a dozen torn-off car fascias. There are at least ten times as many dead animals on the interstate. The vast majority on the back roads are raccoons or smaller. Along the super slab, there’s no shortage of road-kill venison.

That section of I-70 in western Missouri I mentioned above didn’t only feature a nice driving surface, it also was laser-straight for what seemed like an hour. The bone-jarring patches and holes were gone, only to be replaced by mind-numbing monotony.

Every now and then a nice Mustang or Challenger comes up next to me. This is almost always on 3-lane sections, where there’s a fair amount of traffic. They’ll get their door next to my nose, then back off so my door is at theirs. Then they’ll put the pedal down, making a big display of noise. I have no idea what they’re expecting me to do. We’re invariably in traffic. I’m guessing they want me to know what I already know: because they have two or three times the horsepower, they’re faster in a straight line. I find straight-line speed uninteresting.

I spotted two cars worth mentioning. One was a right-hand drive Jeep with no doors. I had to look twice when he passed me and even then I had to make sure when I passed him back a few minutes later. The other one was either a Skyline R32 or R33. I don’t really know the difference. I was surprised the car was left-hand drive. When I first spotted him, he was catching me at a good clip, and when finally saw me he maneuvered to pass me on the right (we were still in Georgia). He passed me with a GoPro in his hand. I gave him a peace sign.

When I’m passing trucks, I don’t stay next to them for very long. Before I get my nose in there, I see what’s in front of them. If they’re catching somebody, I don’t want them squishing me by changing lanes. I want some open space ahead of me in my lane so I can throw a little throttle in there and get around them with dispatch. When I’m in a long line in the left lane, which happens all too often, sometimes it irritates an impatient fellow behind me while I’m creating that gap. I refuse to drive side-by-side with a tractor-trailer rig.

By noon I decided to skip the Eisenhower Museum tomorrow and take US 36 back.

I didn’t blow any fuses today. First, there was no reason for it to happen, as I had already canceled my track day and I’m headed home. I don’t doubt that had I gone to Barber, I’d have had problems. The other reason none blew is that I bought that box of spares yesterday. The angry godz have had their fun with me.

I got to the hotel at 6:20 or so. I had plenty of daylight left. I didn’t make a reservation for tonight. Plan A was in Concordia, Plan B thirty miles farther; I’d stop at Concordia and see if the further one had a room. As it happened, they were full up, so Plan A it was.

When I showed up at Jayne and Dan’s, Dan remarked that I didn’t look like I’d been driving all day. No doubt about it today: I’m beat. Four hours later, I felt like I was still vibrating. I was on the road for ten and a half or eleven hours, with all but the first hour keeping the tach pinned at 4k or a bit under, depending on the speed limit. The interstate really gets me buzzed, you might say. Good Vibrations.

April 16

I woke up at about 5 am and lay there a few minutes before deciding to hit the road early.

Google Maps suggests two routes: I-70 and US 36. This is a no-brainer. There’s no way I’m going to subject myself to another full day of the super slab. The route starts on the interstate: I-70 to Kansas City, then I-29 north (my 7th interstate of the weekend) until it reaches US 36. At least four times, I got the message that there’s a quicker route I should take. Silly me. If you present me with two choices and I take one, why ask repeatedly if I would rather go the other way? Is my phone doing my bidding, or the other way around?

I stopped for breakfast at the first convenient restaurant on US 36. I was expecting a warm day, so I wore shorts. At 8 o’clock this seemed like a bad choice. It was quite cold, and the wind was fierce. I might have changed clothes if my jeans were readily accessible.

I quickly settled into the rhythm of the drive. Motoring at a reasonable 65 or 70, slowing down when the highway became the main street of the various farming and ranching towns of Kansas, then getting back up to speed on the other side. The open road was nearly empty. There are at least a hundred times more cars on the interstate. I kept within 5 mph of the speed limit, was passed by faster traffic only three times, and passed not many more cars who were slower.

I was home by 4:15 and felt like a normal, non-vibrating human. Not stressed out, not fatigued.

Again, I didn’t blow a fuse. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had I tried to do the Barber track days. I surely didn’t want to blow a fuse again at the start of a lap. I know I made the correct choice in cutting the trip short (missing not only the Barber days and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, but planned visits to Andersonville National Historic Site, Shiloh National Military Park, and the Clinton Museum and Library).

I’ve already decided I’m going to go to Barber next year. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 7

April 12

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve had a long list of people who have been giving me suggestions as to how to solve the issue. In addition to all my running around yesterday, a Denver friend posted my dilemma on LotusTalk seeking answers. I appreciate that so many people have tried to help. It’s tough, though, given my ignorance, ineptitude, and lack of tools. This morning I followed a few of their suggestions but still no joy.

The original plan for this trip had me making some side trips for sightseeing, but my time has been consumed and I’m not really willing to rely on the car for unnecessary excursions. I was going to check out Andersonville (a notorious Civil War POW camp) and the Jimmy Carter presidential library while in Atlanta, but I’ve sidelined these. So it goes.

After lunch, Jayne suggested we take a short hike. I thought it a great idea, so we piled into her Jeep and she drove us to Sawnee Mountain where we hiked up to Indian Seats, an overlook that provides views of the distant rolling ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. AtlantaTrails.com describes the view as “breathtaking”. It’s a nice view but I’m not sure it reaches breathtaking status.

The “breathtaking” view of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains.

After the short but welcome hike, Jayne and Dan treated me to a nice dinner at the local brew pub. I had the Go Bleu! burger with a pint of Cherry Limeade, a sour Berliner Weisse. Good stuff.

April 13

I asked Jayne what she had going on today and when she said “nothing”, I suggested we go visit the Jimmy Carter Museum and Library. She was up for it, so off we went. It was rainy and a bit dreary, but that’s not a bad sort of day to wander through a museum. At least I get to hit one of my Atlanta targets.

This is the third presidential museum I’ve visited. This one was a different experience for me for a few reasons. Both Hoover and Truman were before my time, and I’ve read whole-life biographies of both of them. I haven’t gotten to read a Carter bio yet, but even if I wasn’t quite an adult when he was elected, I remember most of the events that are chronicled by the exhibits while I don’t have much of an idea about Carter’s life before the presidency.

The Hoover Museum lacks a reproduction of the oval office. Both Truman and Carter do have that room in their museums and I was a bit surprised at how different they are. Aside from the shape of the room and the fireplace, there was nothing that was the same.

The grounds of the museum and library are beautiful. It may have been a nice sort of day to wander a museum, but I’d have liked to have taken a walk outside. Oh, and that’s one more difference between this museum and the other two: Carter is still alive as I write this and so he isn’t buried here (and I don’t know whether he will be buried here in the end or not).

Tonight I had dinner with a few local Lotus folks. I had the pleasure of meeting Doug, Mick, and Bob. I had no idea when I suggested getting together for dinner that I’d be visiting with a couple of Lotus Ltd bigwigs! We shared a number of war stories. There was also a bit of discussion of this year’s LOG in Knoxville. It sounded almost as if Doug was trying to talk me into making another trip this way in September.

I had the filet mignon with a loaded baked potato, a side salad, and a large Sam Adams beer. The rest of the trip will be more Subway and Wendy’s than brew pubs and steakhouses.

I reached out to the folks at Chin Track Days to cancel my entry at Barber and also canceled my reservation at the motel near the track. After checking out the weather report for the next few days, I’ve decided to leave here Saturday morning for a two-day Rule #1 violation and skedaddle on home.

Not knowing what’s causing the fuse to blow, I’m a bit concerned that I might possibly be doing some damage to the motor. My other obvious choices are to leave the car here at the Lotus dealer for them to fix (necessitating a round-trip flight), have the car shipped home, or rent a U-Haul to tow it home. I made a half-hearted search for someone to ship it but didn’t find anybody that went from here to there. I’m not at all enamored with the U-Haul option, and, frankly, I’d rather have the work done by someone who has worked on my car before and who is local to me.

Tomorrow I should stop by an auto parts store and get some more spare fuses.

April 14

Today was pretty much a “zero” day. I went nowhere, did nothing. Well, I did make it to the auto parts store for spare fuses. I did a little planning for the trip home: where to spend the night, whether to try to shoehorn in a visit to the Eisenhower Museum or not. Oh, and Jayne and Dan and I went out to eat at a Mexican place. I had some enchiladas and a beer at the CT Cantina & Taqueria. The enchiladas were quite tasty.

Working on the assumption that I would, indeed, make it home sometime on Sunday, I made an appointment to get the car fixed. My man Ryan says he’s “excited to look at it and hopefully, it will be a quick turnaround!” I love his confidence! I gather that he’s booked up until June and he’s doing me a big solid by squeezing me in. He says he’s going to work evenings. I have no idea what I’ve done to deserve the special treatment, but it’s much appreciated.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 6

April 11

I need to find a way to get the car fixed. I’m not going to get out on the track at Barber unless I get it fixed. Without a fix, the rest of the trip is done. No Andersonville, no Shiloh. No Carter Museum or Clinton Museum. Can I even drive the car home like this?

Lotus of Atlanta

First thing in the morning I got online and looked up Lotus of Atlanta. They open at 8, so I waited until about 5 after and gave them a call. I got the message that their voicemail box was full and I couldn’t leave a message. Perhaps they’re busy and couldn’t pick up the phone. I waited a while and tried again. Same result. I did a Google search and found a different phone number, where only the last digit was different. I called that number and got through. How long have they had the wrong number on their website, and what does it say about their general competence? Just wondering.

I talked to a service writer and explained my dilemma: I’m 1300 miles from home with a car that keeps blowing a fuse. Is there any way you can take care of me? The short answer was “Tough shit”. To be fair, he explained that their tech was going on vacation starting Thursday (or perhaps it was “after Thursday”) and he already had a line of cars to work on. There’s just no way they can get me in.

So I asked if he could suggest a Plan B. “Well, you could drop the car off and leave it here until Thursday and maybe we could get it done.” As I said, I’m 1300 miles from home, and being here without a car is not a good option. Can he suggest another shop that might be able to help? “No, I don’t know of anybody anywhere near here that can work on your car.” I get that it would be bad business for him to recommend a competitor under normal circumstances when the customer can just wait a while. But I’m not in normal circumstances. Their lack of compassion was striking. Not even a platitude.

The Odyssey

It’s a Toyota engine, so I headed to the nearest Toyota dealer. I drew a big crowd when I pulled into line. This dealer is quite busy. The advisor I talked to said they average more than 250 cars a day in their service department. He told me it was a slow day and they could get right to me.

Only one or two of their advisors knew the Elise had a Toyota motor.

I explained what was going on and they said they’d take a look at it, with the usual diagnostic charge that would be waived if I did whatever work they recommended. To take it from the service desk to the shop, a young gal got behind the wheel. One of the advisors asked if she knew how to drive a stick. She said she did. She stalled it three times before she got it going. After the third try, I hollered out, “No pressure! Nobody is watching!” Of course, everyone was watching. When she did manage to go without stalling, she went like a rocket.

A couple of hours later, they came to give me the bad news. They had no idea what the issue was. The harness isn’t Toyota, the ECM isn’t Toyota, and they can’t do much without a wiring diagram, and anything they suggest would just be a guess. They did provide a guess, though: the oil control valves. There are two, each goes for about $200 and the labor would put me in the thousand-dollar range. That’s pretty ballsy. “We just admitted we don’t know anything about your problem, but we’re willing to charge you a grand on something anyway!”

One of the advisors asked the other if he remembered the name of some British guy that worked on Lotus and used to come in for parts. He might be able to help. They never did come up with his name, but one said I should go to Robinson Racing, which is not far away. The guy there, Barry, would know the British guy. So off I went.

The address he gave me turned out to be a building housing a Jeep shop. I would say “bustling” Jeep shop but even though there were a couple of dozen Jeeps there, the place seemed deserted. I went in anyway. I spotted the race car that the Toyota advisor showed me on his phone, so I figured I was in the right spot. I called out “Hello” and Barry came out from behind a car and greeted me. Yes, this was Robinson Racing, but he sold the building a while back and he’s down to being a one-man shop, mostly doing fabrication. He couldn’t help me, he had no clue about any British guy and suggested I go to the building next door and talk to the vintage Porsche guys. So off I went.

They have a big semi out front with the name Vintage Racing Company. I “Hello”ed again and this time was greeted by a chap formerly from South Africa. He was busy with something but was quickly on the phone with someone who I assume was his boss. He put him on speaker and I answered some questions: What kind of car? What year? and a couple more. He didn’t know anybody but told the South African to have Matt call around for me. We went inside and found Matt. I let him make his calls while I ogled all the old and not-so-old Porsche race cars.

A few minutes later, he told me he tried to get hold of two guys. One was on an airplane and the other was in a business meeting. He said I should wait a while for one of them to call back.

Next, I met a guy who was just visiting the shop. He used to work there and the other guys kept giving him grief for one thing or another. He was curious about my problem. I showed him the list of fault codes and he poked around here and there and looked up the codes he didn’t already know. His suspicion is that it’s a bad solenoid.

Matt came back outside with a Google maps printout. He said I should reach out to Hyper Sport Engineering-Lotus and talk to a guy named Kirt. I had him spell that. It’s the same Kirt I talked to at the track. He wasn’t much help at the track, but he was busy with his own work. What harm is there in reaching out to him again? Perhaps in his shop he could work some magic. I dialed the number. “We’re sorry. The number you dialed is no longer in service.” I found another number after a little googling, but that number turned out to be the firehouse for engine number 10. Sorry, wrong number.

Further searches led me to believe Hyper Sport Engineering-Lotus is no more. When I first talked to him, he did say he used to build Exige race cars. Past tense.

I also reached out to Ryan at Blue Chip to see if he knew anybody in this neighborhood. He asked a bunch of questions. He had a list of possibilities. An oil control solenoid could be drawing too much amperage. Later he said he had a hunch that there is a chafed wire somewhere or an issue with the alternator. He, too, reached out to Dave Simkins. I bet Dave is getting tired of people telling him about my car. (His suggestion: visit the local Lotus dealer.)

Michael’s first suggestion when the first one blew was that there is a wire shorting out. I’m generally clueless about these things, but it seems to me a short would fit with the fact that it doesn’t matter whether I’m on the second cam or not and that it has failed upon startup and also when cruising. In any event, it doesn’t look like I’m going to find an answer in time to salvage the rest of the trip.

I went back to Jayne and Dan’s and did a load of laundry. For dinner, I met a colleague I’ve worked with over the last year and a half. We ate at a place called Butcher & Brew. I had the roasted beef birria sandwich and a couple of pints of lime gose. Very tasty.

I probably spent two hours driving from place to place on today’s odyssey and with the hour’s drive after the track, it’s been about three hours of operation since the last fuse went. Nobody is going to be able to troubleshoot it without the wiring diagram. The car isn’t going to get fixed.

What are my options?

The Atlanta Saga – Part 5

April 10

Today is my day at Road Atlanta. How will this go?

I’m well past the last day refunds would be available, so even if I don’t get any track time, I may as well go. I should be able to run a few laps at least. But the fuse is one that controls the VVTI business. Would the fuse blow as soon as I hit the second cam? If that happens, I may as well park it. We shall see.

The organizers, Chin Track Days, wanted drivers to get signed in before 7:30 and to have the cars through tech inspection before the 7:40 drivers’ meeting. I planned to arrive at 7. The track has a gas station, so I didn’t fuel up on my way. This was a minor mistake. Premium unleaded is about four bucks a gallon in these parts, but at the track, it was six. I could have saved about twenty bucks. So it goes.

I got checked in and took the car through the tech line. They don’t actually inspect the car. All the tech line is for is to submit the paperwork and have a sticker applied to the windshield. It’s pretty quick. I found a place in the already full paddock, unloaded my stuff, and introduced myself to my neighbors, relating to them a short version of my fuse woes.

After the drivers’ meeting and a quick second meeting (broken down by run group), the first session on track was a yellow flag orientation session. No passing, and not at full speed, it allows folks like me who haven’t been there to get a sense of the place. Drivers in all groups were allowed. Even though it was standing yellow flags all the way around and no passing, people were moving at a pretty good clip. Still, I wasn’t exactly sure what gear to use for each corner or where my braking zones were. But it was a useful session. Until, eight laps in, the fuse blew again.

Luckily, it blew near the end of the lap, and I could easily and safely limp back to the pits and paddock. I pondered what sort of fun it would be if it were to blow just as I was getting on the track. I swapped in another fuse and went in search of anybody who might be able to help me. I was the only Lotus, so I figured my hopes were slim.

First, I met Angel. He has a trailer and tools and even a couple of cars for rent (not cheap; I didn’t even ask). Unfortunately, he didn’t have a multi-meter and wasn’t confident he could be of any help. He did say he’d likely charge me $50. The first thing he did was take the cover off the fuse box, which he promptly fumbled down into the engine bay. He managed to get it out after 20 minutes of struggle and when he was done he told me he wouldn’t charge me the fifty to retrieve it. I pocketed it to make sure it didn’t get lost. Naturally, I realized a couple of hours later that I had lost it. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.

Angel then directed me to another fellow, Kirt, who told me he used to build Exige race cars. He loaned me his multi-meter and gave me a list of things for Angel to check. This proved fruitless. I talked to Kirt again and he said he’d reach out to Dave Simkins, the chief Lotus tech in North America. Dave is in California, so we were dealing with a 3-hour time difference.

Not yet ready to risk another fuse, I skipped my first couple of sessions and wandered the paddock chatting with people. I met another gentleman who told me he used to work for Lotus of Atlanta. I said I’d likely see if they could fix it; he said I shouldn’t go there. He tracked me down later in the day to tell me that he, too, had reached out to Dave Simkins.

By the end of the day, even people I hadn’t talked to knew that I was having issues. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one. One Corvette was up on jacks all morning and half a dozen guys were taking the turbo apart on a Porsche. Just before they packed up and left, I recognized that one of them was Randy Pobst.

I had met Randy a few times at the RMVR Race Against Kids Cancer events over the years. He’s a really personable guy, always pleasant. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, he meets people all the time, but he might remember my car. I approached him.

“Rocket Randy Pobst! How are you?”

I told him we’d met a few times at the RAKC events. We chatted for a few minutes. I gave him my usual line: “I’m the idiot who drives his Elise cross country for track events.” He responded with “You’re my hero!” and gave me a fist bump. Then he left with the guys working on the Porsche. They went to his place to see if they could get it cured.

I decided to run in my next session. After three laps, I saw a black flag. Each corner station was presenting the black flag, so I knew it wasn’t personal. Then I saw the Mustang parked on the track. These guys don’t fetch stricken cars without stopping the session. After a few minutes idling on pit lane, they green-flagged us and we went out again. I got another 4 laps in.

Shortly after that, Jayne and Dan showed up. We got Dan his passenger wristband (sign the waiver, pay $20) and I gave him a ride. I know that being a passenger isn’t the same as driving. I’m not a great passenger. Once, after a few laps as a rider, I started feeling queasy and was happy to get back to the paddock. So I understood fully when he gave me the signal that he’d had enough.

Dan then suggested that Jayne get a wristband for a ride. Unfortunately, just out of the pits, the fuse blew again. Right at the start of the lap, the worst possible time. I had to limp the 2.5 miles back to the pits. There weren’t very many cars left this late in the day, so it could have been a lot hairier. Still, crawling along the back straight with 4-way blinkers on, seeing the Porsches blast by with about a hundred-mile-an-hour speed differential was unsettling, to say the least. But I could see the corner stations flying a white flag (slow-moving vehicle on track) as I went by.

So that was the end of my day at the track.

A Lap

Here’s the obligatory video of a lap of the track. This is my first track day using the new 360 camera. By the time I put the data and rearview on, I’ve taken away the ability of the user to move the camera’s view and all that’s left is the “horizon lock” and picture stability. Maybe next time, I’ll take more advantage of the capabilities of the camera.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 4

April 9

Today’s plan is to visit Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s residence. It’s 110 or 120 miles from the hotel. Using back roads, it would be nearly 3 hours or less than 2 hours via the interstate. I elected to violate Rule #1 and take the most direct route. The scenic route would make for a long day and a late arrival in Atlanta.

About an hour into the trip, I was cruising along in the right lane, taking it easy, when the fuse blew again. When it blew the first time, in Dexter, I was pulling out of the gas station. I didn’t have any momentum and I was worried I’d get stuck in the middle of the intersection. On the highway, it’s manageable. The RPMs modulate between about 4k and about 0. If you have momentum, you can get the car out of hazard.

I wanted to stop at an exit. If I needed somebody to help me, I wanted to be at an exit to make things as easy as possible. It wouldn’t matter which way they were coming. If you don’t get off the highway, it can be a real hassle. Luckily, there was an exit sign just ahead and I only had to go a mile. I limped along the shoulder of the road with the 4-way blinkers on and made my way down nearly to the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp.

There were no services available here – it’s just a country road. The road goes under the interstate, so I’m below grade. Nobody on the highway can see me. There’s no gas station, no McDonald’s, no nothing. Truly the middle of nowhere Tennessee.

I popped the boot lid to pull the bad fuse. I didn’t have another 7.5 amp fuse, but Michael said I could use a 10 amp (but no bigger!). I did have a spare 10 in the fuse compartment up front. I had not yet even gotten my Allen wrench out to open the panel when a car hauler pulled up next to me. He rolled down his window and asked if I was having problems.

I told him about my fuse situation. “Let me back my truck up behind you and see if I can help.” Once he got out of his truck, he dug through his tool kit and produced a small box with 5 or 6 7.5 amp fuses. We popped one in and started the car. The fuse blew immediately. He went back to his truck and came back with a box of 5 or 6 10-amp fuses. He opened that box, took one fuse out, and gave me the rest. I started the car and all was good.

The problematic fuse location

He asked where I was headed. I told him I was going to Atlanta. He said, if I needed, he could give me a lift to either Nashville or Knoxville, but not Atlanta. It didn’t click with me right away, but what he was saying was that he could take me and my car to Nashville or Knoxville.

I asked him what I could do for him. “Nothing. That’s the road!” Before we departed, he told me he’d be behind me for a while and if anything else happened he’d stop again.

Thanks, Reuben, you’re my hero.

It wasn’t until I was a few miles down the road that something else occurred to me. Parked at the bottom of the ramp, I couldn’t be seen from the highway. And Reuben didn’t go down that exit ramp because he was exiting the highway. He knew to come looking for me. No doubt, one or more truckers saw me crawling down the shoulder with blinkers on and did a breaker one nine. In Reuben’s world, “That’s the road!”

So: a change of plans. As von Moltke said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” I would no longer be touring Hermitage. I’d stay on the interstate for all but the last hour of the drive and get to Jayne’s place as soon as possible. I arrived at Jayne’s without further incident, although, between the fuse issue and having to deal with truck traffic on the interstate I was fairly stressed out.

As it was Easter Sunday, Jayne and Dan were entertaining guests. I had a nice ravioli dinner and a couple of tasty beers and made some new friends.

The day could have been much worse. But I best not let the godz hear me thinking like that…

The rest of the plans are now in jeopardy. Can I do Road Atlanta tomorrow? Am I doing any damage to the car by blowing fuses? I can’t troubleshoot it, so I have to find somebody that might be able to. The fuse lasted about five hours of operation. What will it do at the track?

I’ll go to Road Atlanta and see what happens. It’s paid for, may as well go.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 3

April 8

From the hotel in Bentonville (on Walton Blvd, no less), it’s a short drive to today’s side trip. The hotel supposedly makes breakfast available for their guests. Keep in mind I’m being a bit frugal when it comes to places to spend the night. I want a clean room and a well-lighted parking lot. Free breakfast is nice, but not required. Today’s free breakfast lacked certain typical choices as fresh fruit and yogurt. If you were looking for Raisin Bran or Cheerios, you’re in luck. Let’s just say the free breakfast was worth what I paid for it.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

I got to the park at about 8. Google says it doesn’t open until 9. That’s the visitor center – you can drive the 7-mile one-way road and visit the ten pullouts any time you want. They had a brochure on display behind glass but I didn’t see any to take. So instead of taking the drive, I’d walk through the fields a bit and come back at 9. (When I got back I saw that there were indeed brochures available had I paid more attention. No matter, though.)

The visitor center has some very nice exhibits and the obligatory gift section. There’s a theater as well. Nothing was showing yet and I didn’t bother to find out what the show was and when. I just wanted to tour the park.

Almost nobody was there. There were a few runners and cyclists and a couple of walkers. I saw one other car the whole time I was on the loop, and that one only briefly.

The park is well maintained, and the paragraph or so in the guide that explains each location does a fairly decent job of telling what happened. It should be noted that the Park is only a fraction of the battlefield.

It was the largest Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. The only other “battlefield” I’ve visited was Glorietta Pass in New Mexico. All that’s there is a roadside monument. It could probably be argued that the monument is too much. The battle was won when the Union soldiers ambushed the Confederate supply train, stealing some supplies, destroying the rest, and killing the horses and mules. The Texans had no choice but to return home.

Pea Ridge was much bigger, but not yet on the scale of the big eastern battles such as Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, or The Wilderness. Missouri was a border state and there were Missouri regiments fighting on both sides. The Confederates ultimately hoped to capture St. Louis and make Missouri a Confederate state.

At Pea Ridge, 16,500 Rebels attacked 10,500 Union soldiers. The Union general was expecting an attack from the south, so he arranged his front accordingly, with his field hospital, supplies, and so forth to the north. But the rebels made an audacious maneuver and attacked from the north. General Curtis had just enough time to completely rearrange his troops – no small task.

The rebels were able to attach from an unexpected direction due to a forced march of 42 miles in 16 hours. It was a daring maneuver but left the men well ahead of their supplies and quite fatigued. That’s not the best way to enter combat.

The battle raged for two days, with much close-in combat. Howitzers fired canister, case shot, and solid shot into formations of soldiers at close range; sometimes in the woods, sometimes in the open. Each canister shot throws out a spray of 27 iron balls each a bit bigger than a pinball. In extreme cases, the canister can be double-shotted (i.e. firing two canisters at once). Case shot projectiles have hollow centers packed with gunpowder and explode above the enemy, showering them with shrapnel. Solid shot (a solid 6- or 12-pound solid iron ball) is typically used at longer range to knock down walls or against enemy artillery.

The Park’s grounds cover most of the battlefield of the last day. The battle is sometimes also called the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern. The tavern was burned down by bushwhackers and the currently standing replica was built in 1865. The tavern sits on forested high ground while much of the combat occurred in the cleared fields to the south and west.

The Union won. Confederate casualties were about double that of the Union. Missouri was never again threatened.

A short time after Pea Ridge was Shiloh. We’ll get to that later.

The Drive

After leaving the Park, I enjoyed the scenery. The weather was fine, I drove many miles of worthy Lotus roads: twisting and turning, up and down, and left and right.

Not far from Pea Ridge, I came to a stop sign at a fairly busy intersection. I was third in line. The guy at the stop sign seemed to be waiting for an engraved invitation. Then I realized why. He wanted to wait for a big car club to pass by. They had a large number of cars. I didn’t think to count them. But we sat there for more than two minutes, so the line was at least two miles long. There were muscle cars, hot rods, and I don’t recall seeing anything imported.

Maybe twenty minutes later, I saw them again as oncoming traffic. They were making a loop and would return to the intersection where I first saw them. I must not have seen all of them the first time. It was a really long line of cars. There were a fair number of interlopers, to be sure, but it was a couple of minutes between seeing the first and the last of them. There had to have been sixty cars, at least.

So, the terrain was different than yesterday: twisty rolling roads and almost no straight-and-flat. And the forest changed throughout the day. Yesterday and this morning, almost all deciduous, and by late afternoon, sometimes evergreens were the majority.

And the vibe changed slightly. No billboards for Jesus, only a few about abortion. And perhaps I’m starting to tune them out but I don’t recall too many Trump flags. Today, it was guns. Lots and lots of gun shops. I’m guessing there is more hunting in Missouri than in Kansas, so that’s no doubt a factor. Guns and this, guns and that. I had a little mental list going but once I saw “Guns and Honey” the others just got forgotten.

Over the course of the day, the terrain changed from one with mile after mile of Lotus road to something more like what you’d find in Illinois: billiard table flat made up of cropland separated by narrow bands of trees.

By about 4 o’clock, I said to myself, “What a fine day! No new rock chips on the windshield and the phone is working fine. Nothing has gone wrong today!” Clearly, expressing this sentiment, even to myself, made the godz angry.

The Fuse

I stopped for gas in Dexter, MO. When I exited the station, the car ran very rough and I nearly stalled it in the intersection. I managed to get off the road and into an empty parking lot. The check engine light was on, along with most of the other bad lights. I could restart it, but it wouldn’t run. This is not good. Broken down a thousand miles from home, ignorant and incompetent when it comes to repairing cars, my anxiety went into overdrive. At least I wasn’t stuck on the side of the highway.

After three tries, I was able to use my phone app to read the engine’s fault codes. I got just about every code in the book: P0076, P0077, P0445, P0444, P0447, P0448, P2648, and P2649. I sent a screenshot to Michael just to share the misery.

It was just after 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, on Easter weekend. I suppose it could have been worse: it could have been Easter Sunday. Thinking there wasn’t much Michael could do for me remotely, I searched the area for repair shops that were open. The first one I called, only half a mile distant, didn’t answer and his voicemail box was full. The second number answered. They were 16 miles away.

I explained what was going on, and read him the codes. I told him it was a Toyota engine. He was talking to somebody else in the background. Between the two of them, they figured out what they could bring to diagnose the problem. They suspected it might be a fuel pump. Even though I’m not a mechanic, I dismissed this solution. Worst case, they could tow me to their place and we’d go from there. They said it would take about 45 minutes for them to get to me.

In the meantime, Michael had texted me a suggestion. After a search of the web, he said that it could just be a fuse. So I took the cover off the fuse box on the front of the car and checked all of them. They all looked okay to me. I really hadn’t looked at this fuse box too closely up to now. I was pleased to see that it includes a spare fuse of each kind I might need.

I knew there were also fuses in the engine compartment, but I didn’t know where they were. Nothing looked like the fuse box in the front. I didn’t know whether Michael was at home or not. Luckily for me, he was. I had him go to the garage, find the Lotus manual, and take a picture of the page that shows where the engine fuses are. He also kindly told me which fuse it would be if this was the problem. I wasn’t exactly sure from his description, so it took me a couple of tries to find the right one. And, typically, even then it wasn’t easy. All the other fuses I checked were translucent and you could see whether it was bad or not. This one wasn’t translucent.

Just as I was inspecting this non-translucent fuse, my mechanics rolled up. One guy hooked up his computer to my OBD port while the other used a bright flashlight to inspect the suspicious fuse. He said it didn’t look good, so I grabbed the spare 7.5 amp fuse and installed it. The car fired up just fine. Woo hoo!

Even though they didn’t do anything to help me, I knew I’d have to pay them just for showing up. Silly me, I was expecting something like $40 or $50. The one in charge asked for $100. I told him I had $80 cash and no checkbook. He took the $80 and wrote me a receipt that showed a $100 charge and $80 payment.

That set me back a bit more than an hour. To add insult to injury, my phone gave me a different route than is in my itinerary. There are multiple road closures and this new route avoids them. It’s an hour longer. And with more traffic. Ending, ultimately, with me violating both Rule #1 and Rule #2 with the final half hour of the day’s drive on I-24 in the dark. So it goes.

I felt happy to dodge a bullet. Even if I didn’t know where the bullet was fired from, so to speak.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 2

April 7

I was hoping to get out of the hotel by 7:45 with the idea I’d be at the Truman Library when they open. As it was, nature and technology threw up some roadblocks and I didn’t hit the road until a bit after 8.

Because I charge the phone all day while driving, I didn’t bother to plug it in overnight. When I got to the car, it was down to about 17%. When I fired up the car, I plugged both the phone and the iPod into the charger. The iPod told me it was charging, but the phone didn’t. The cigarette lighter port is a bit janky. Someone on Lotus Talk replaced the cigarette lighter with a dual USB charger. It looks like a simple mod that would mean I would no longer need to fiddle with the stock one, and I’d not have to worry about it not charging when I assume it is. So, naturally, I at first thought I just needed to “jiggle the handle”. But there was no joy.

By the time I arrived at the Truman Library, we were down to 8 or 9%. I grabbed the plug-in adapter and went inside looking for an electrical outlet. The guard pointed me to one in the corner near his station and I plugged in there. Still no joy. Now I was wondering if it was the phone or the cable. Everything worked fine yesterday. Why does it fail now? What have I done to anger the godz?

I often complain about the fragility of our technological times. This is a perfect case. I have very little battery in an unfamiliar city. What do I do with a dead battery? It’s a sort of range anxiety. Drive around randomly looking for a Verizon store? Sheesh.

The Truman Library

The Truman Library was the first of the presidential libraries. This is the second presidential library I’ve visited. Hoover’s was first. They’re very similar: a museum that covers the man’s entire life and is open to the public, and a library that is used by researchers that the public doesn’t get to see. And, naturally, there’s a gift shop as well. As with the Hoover library, Truman’s also includes the grave site.

I made my way through the place a bit more quickly than I anticipated. I’d allowed as much as three hours (cut a few minutes short by my late start) but was done in about half the time. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading about Truman’s history as I’ve read quite a bit about him already. Rather than reading all the material, I concentrated on viewing the various artifacts.

I think it’s a very nice museum. Anybody who doesn’t already know his story can learn all the important bits. There are quite a few videos to watch and a large number of text-heavy exhibits. There is quite a bit more in Truman’s museum than in Hoover’s. Here, there’s a reproduction Oval Office in the basement. Hoover didn’t have one.

The Cable

After enjoying the museum and the garden, I went back to the car and dug through my “bag of tricks”, a heavy-duty quart-sized ziplock bag full of cords and adapters. I sadly neglected to bring another phone cable, but I was pleasantly surprised that the cable for the GoPro Max fits. Plugged it in and it started to charge.

However, the GoPro cable is much too short for me to have the phone charging when it’s mounted on my dash. That’s just not going to work. I need a longer cable. I went to a Verizon store where I knew for sure I could get something that would work but also knew I’d spend two or three times what I’d pay at a Best Buy or equivalent. I am now the proud owner of a new 6’ cable that cost $25. The whole cable thing stressed me out more than it should have.

By now it was lunchtime, so I stopped and grabbed a sandwich for the road.

The Drive

I’ve gone on about the options Google gives us for navigation. For these cross-country trips, I always check the boxes for “No Tolls” and “No Highways”. “No Tolls” is pretty straightforward and unambiguous. “No Highways”, on the other hand, isn’t so simple. In Colorado and points west, it is my experience that “No Highways” is functionally equivalent to “No Interstates”, which is actually what I’m after. Google’s idea of “No Highways” isn’t very clear to me. It could mean that it avoids any multi-lane road with limited access, but I think it’s rather more restrictive than that.

In any event, knowing I’d be directed on roads often smaller than strictly necessary, I kept the “No Highways” option on and set out. I also knew that the drive time difference between highways and no highways would be significantly greater than it was yesterday. But I didn’t have far to go, so I wasn’t in any particular hurry. I’m much happier getting away from the big trucks and the traffic, getting off the beaten path, and getting (I think) a much better view of the countryside.

Using “No Highways” in Kansas still allowed me to use national highways (primarily US 36). On these roads, you pass through all the little towns between where you start and where you end. In Missouri and Arkansas, though, using “No Highways” tends to take you around all the little towns. Which also means you don’t drive past any gas stations.

I had a little “fun” trying to find a gas station. I pulled over and searched for gas stations, but none were on my route. The nearest, Google said, involved backtracking 17 miles. The best would be the one not far off my route 32 miles away. I was a bit surprised that there are no gas stations for 50 miles. Truly, these are the back roads.

About 10 miles later I spotted a Casey’s General Store a bit down a crossroad. Does Google not recognize Casey’s as being gas stations? I admit they’re not my first choice, as they don’t sell premium, but I figure low octane is better than no octane, so I filled up anyway. I’ll burn all the low-octane fuel off before lunch tomorrow.

The Geography

The first few miles of road after leaving Atchison follow the Missouri River. Signs along the road identify it as part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. On my Oregon trip a decade ago (!), I followed a significant portion of their travels. Today, it was just a few miles.

Once I got a short distance east of the river, my route was made up of an alphabet soup of backroads: Highway A, Highway H, Highway W, and so on. All of these letter routes were nice pavement (albeit so narrow they don’t have shoulders), 55 mph speed limits, and almost zero traffic.

Much of my route was on the western edge of a plateau. I’d traverse a few miles of flat agricultural land on an arrow-straight road, then drop off the plateau into a valley or ravine. In these ravines, the road becomes a Lotus road: twisting and turning, rising and falling. At times the ups and downs were like bunny hops on a roller coaster. I was tempted to add a little speed in these places, but there were far too many blind crests. There were a number of signs warning me to share the road with the horse-and-buggy set. I’d have hated to crest a hill with a steep descent only to find a buggy.

These bottom lands held other potential issues as well. Not actual issues now, but they probably were when I passed through Missouri a few years ago. These letter routes feature almost no cut and fill. That is, they’re pretty much at grade level. Grade level in the bottoms means “potentially flooded”. More than a dozen times I saw signs warning that the road may be impassable. These are permanent signs, not temporary ones that I’ve often seen when some side roads are actually flooded. In addition to the warning signs well in advance of the potential danger, they had a number of amber-colored signs that would show how deep the water is in the case that it’s actually flooded. All these signs could indicate depths of as much as 5 feet. I wonder how often the signs are totally submerged.

This up-and-down, on the plateau and in the bottoms, continued until nearly the Arkansas border, where the plateau seemed to end. Coincidentally, that’s when even these back roads started to see traffic. I was nearing Bentonville.

I’m not a farmer, and I’m unable to identify most of the crops I drive past, particularly this early in the season. Like any second grader, I can spot corn and wheat but anything else is a mystery to me.

A fair amount of land was devoted to livestock rather than crops. In Kansas, the cattle were all in the typical industrial feedlots, cattle shoulder to shoulder at the trough and manure piled ten or more feet high. Here in this part of Missouri, there are a lot of cattle, but they’re all grass-fed. Not nearly as many cattle per acre, but probably making for better beef.

I don’t know much about chicken farming. I’ve seen some documentaries about it, and how the three or four giant chicken companies have transformed the industry. I think I saw a few of these modern chicken farms. Each had between four and ten long, low buildings with ventilation fans on each end, and all the driveways and buildings festooned with “No Trespassing” signs.

Most of the roadside billboards in Kansas were selling Jesus and advocating against abortion. In Missouri, it’s Trump instead of Jesus and unborn babies. In this part of Missouri, you can’t go more than a few rural miles without seeing Trump flags. It seems no Trump supporter in these parts is satisfied with a single flag. It’s four or five or six at a time: “Trump 2020”, “Make America Great Again”, “Let’s Go Brandon”.

Everywhere I stopped, people were friendly and curious.