Chapter 142, June 2009
Red Realizes Relocation!
Duramax does distance doing deliveries!!
Well, I think you get the idea...
So Red has been sold and delivered. This is the story. It all came together pretty weird, but the important thing is that it came together. *whew*. Let's start from the beginning:
It was a dark and stormy night that....err....wait.
It all began on a daaaaark night, where a daaaaaaaaark man waits with a daaaaaaaaaaaaaark purpose*. Err....wait.
Farewell Red, but I know you'll see the track again soon!
It was the first part of June and I posted the successful Red Shakedown on a Monza board and I got a private message from an interested party. Bill has been an h-body (the chassis designation for the Monza and Vega was the 'h') and autocrosser for decades and he and I had actually talked years ago about the monza in ITA and such. He was looking to get a 'ready to go, turn-key' racer and that is pretty much what Red is. With fresh tires and an oil change it is likely ready for a track day. The timing could not have been better as my job is changing but I had a few weeks and then my friend Eric chimed in that he needed some parts picked up and delivered and he'd help out with the trip if I'd make a detour. You know me, I'm all about windshield time!!
So this was the original plan:
Should be over 3500 miles in four days. Pulling a loaded trailer to Richmond, then empty to OKC, loaded to Katy, and empty home.
Strangely enough, the Saturday night before the trip I was chaperoning some friends to Austin (6th street FTW) and the truck all of a sudden had an extended crank start. That is, it would have to crank a few seconds before starting. The truck has never done this before. A quick Sunday scan of the diesel forums indicates the water sensor in the bottom of the fuel filter (which is changed frequently) can crack and leak and lose prime, thus the engine has to crank longer to start. A quick look showed this to be true and Monday I was at the dealership bright and early to get a new one and get it installed. I then got the trailer and loaded up. Monday night I go to check trailer tires and one is low. They were fine 12 hours before. Yup, a leaker. Thankfully it was the stem so I pulled it off and swapped it for one of my two spares then went to a buddy's shop (THANKS RENE!!) and swapped the stem and was back to two spares. These last minutes glitches were not inspiring, but I was committed and had a deadline. Frank was feeding the dogs, but he was leaving town Friday afternoon to go to the coast and I needed to be home to feed my dogs Saturday AND also HIS dogs! No time for any real delays!
I love bridges...
So Tuesday arrives and I drop the hammer to scoot across Texas and hit Houston just after morning rush hour but still get hosed in a bit of traffic there and again for a wreck in Beaumont. Louisiana's roads are getting a lot better but are still absolutely horrible in some areas and then I blow through Mississippi and Alabama on my way to HotLanta. I roll into Kyle's about 2300 (time change) and chat with friends I've not seen in too long. Some fast sleep and 0600 Tuesday morning finds me spooling the boost on the dmax heading towards South Carolina. I was in North Carolina and close enough to smell Virginia when a muffled pop and a pointing passenger of a passing motorist had me pull over to find a blown front trailer tire on the passenger side. I grabbed the ramp, tools, and one of the spares and was moving again in about 7 minutes sliding into Virginia as the first rain clouds of the trip began to look a bit ominous.
I met Bill at his house nearly on time and after some trailer shenanigans to get turned around, we began to unload. It wasn't raining, but the humidity felt like it followed me from Texas and we were doing some serious sweating getting all the stuff unloaded. Rearends, transmissions, hoods, hatches, wheels, and bins and bins and bins of spare parts really took quite a while. I would have loved to take up Bill's offer of dinner and a good nights sleep, but I pulled a Robert Frost, claiming my 'miles to go before I sleep'. I pulled out and with a quick glance back, I then eased towards the highway, my eyes getting a bit misty at Red not being mine anymore. I was comforted in the thought that she is in a good home now but it still felt odd to not own a Monza since I've had one since the mid 1980s.
Some of the spares. Not including transmissions, hoods, hatches, etc etc etc
As I began to curve back around with West Virginia on the nose the rain did indeed come. After some small drizzles and a few showers, the bottom fell out when I got to the mountains. It got so bad several times that it was 20mph with wipers on high and flashers on for 15-20 minutes at a time with severely reduced visibility. I was happy to have an empty trailer to help my stopping distances but it was still a bit sketchy as most folks pulled over and tried to wait it out. Not me, I had places to go. As night fell we got away from the rain, but into the serious mountains. Switchbacks galore with loaded rigs slowing to 15mph trying to climb them. I'd let my speed fall to 35-40 while using about 1/4 to 3/8ths throttle and keep my engine and transmission temps nice and cool.
With the up/down of the switchbacks I was in/out of a fog layer a lot, it was awesome!
The down slopes made me happy for 'tow/haul' mode as I rarely had to touch the brakes as the transmission automatically downshifted and kept my speed from running away. Finally, deep in the night, I grabbed a room at a Motel 6 (clean and very nice, but I slept with the Glock anyway) and snagged a good 6 hours of sleep and saw Wednesday slip into the past.
Thursday at 0600 saw the BHD's turbocharger shoving air into the mighty engine as we headed West. Kentucky went by, followed by Indiana and then I was in Missouri. For all the traffic and construction delays that hosed me, I hosed myself in St Louis and lost a half hour getting back on track. Stupid mistake, but they happen. I rolled across the gorgeous plains and rolled into KC and headed north a bit to Andy's house to pick up Eric's parts. I had planned on a 1700 arrival and was running about an hour and a half behind, but fairly close to my schedule. Andy helped and we got everything loaded fairly quick and Andy was gracious enough to offer me a nice room for the night. As bad as I wanted to curl up and sleep, I had a date with more distance so I grabbed a quick shower (THANKS ANDY) to freshen up and the hammer was again dropped and I was smiling knowing that I was Texas bound with only one state in the way. Sadly, I was at the top of Kansas and didn't quite make it out of the state when it was 0130 on Friday morning and my body told my brain that we were done traveling. I pulled into a service park on the toll road and crawled in the backseat of the truck (it all folds flat and I can stretch out) to a pad of 3 moving blankets, a sleeping bag and a few pillows. I set the alarm on the iPhone and was out before I could tell myself to go to sleep.
Friday at 0730 I was up and stretching on the way into the rest stop. With cleaned teeth and a topped off truck I headed south as the clock ticked over to 0800. With the sun up, I realized why the rig didn't feel that great...I was bucking a gargantuan headwind trying to blow me to Canada. Flags, even the huge ones, were standing straight out and pointing exactly opposite my heading.
I quickly found a convoy and tagged along. They were going a bit slower than I wanted to run, but with a few trucks in front of me, my throttle input was much lower and the fight was much easier. I settled in for the quick trip into Oklahoma and then grinned as I finally saw the 'Welcome to Texas' sign. I rolled through Denton, Dallas, and down i45 to Houston and then across town over to Katy to meet Eric at his house at 2030, fully 3.5 hours behind schedule. We unloaded and again, as welcome as the offer was and as much as I wanted to curl up and sleep, I slid back behind the wheel and headed off into the night on my last leg at 2200.
At 0100 on the nose Saturday morning I turned the key off and the dmax restfully got quiet in from of my house. I grabbed my gear and headed inside.
Three thousand six hundred and seventy five miles in 91 hours. Solo. It had crossed my mind before I left that I'm not getting any younger and I wondered if I'd be able to put the miles away like I used to be able to and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could. 15+ hours at a stretch were no big deal and my main goal was to make it nice and safe and not stress the rig. The last big Monza trip had been with my father over New Years as we spent the night ringing in 2001 covering some of the same highway as he shared old Air Force stories with me. I didn't know it when I pulled in, but I stopped at one of the same truck stops that he and I had breakfast at on that trip 9 years ago. I smiled as I realized it and looked over to the empty booth that we had sat in refueling our bodies for the push home. He passed away a five months after that trip and I'm so very thankful that he and I got to take that trip. I thought of those stories and the man my father was.
Random trip pics below:
*bonus points if you know the movie...