Portland 2013 #2 – Driving to Deming, NM

Made it out of Texas to Deming, New Mexico about three hours late due mainly to cooling problems with the Metro. I’m consistently losing coolant despite having replaced pretty much the entire system recently, *and* having just bypassed the heater core, which was the last Major Candidate that might be the source of the problem. Both radiator and the overflow bottle were losing large amounts of coolant every 100-mile stop, and the coolant temperature was always hovering over 200. Finally, the car would really overheat whenever I was stationary, even though the fan was running. There did seem to be some wetness around the radiator cap area. When Levi was visiting, we had an overheat due to low coolant, and I lost my cap as the cascade of super-heated ethylene-glycol seared the side of my arm. The new one has a “safety” valve, and I think it’s possible that might be leaking even when it’s supposed to be locked shut. The other candidate is the overflow cap, because I lost the original and had to McGuyver a replacement that’s basically a bottle cap with a hole in it. One possible problem is that I replaced the radiator with one that has almost twice the original capacity, but didn’t replace the overflow bottle with a bigger one. So extra coolant from the bigger radiator may be overflowing the overflow, a which point the extra would come out through that hole. The other likely problem is that the thermostat, which is designed to jam open in the event of an overheat, may have gotten stuck half way open, restricting coolant flow. Add to all this 600 lbs of cargo in a 55 hp vehicle, *plus* 100+ degree ambient temperatures, which in turn necessitates running the AC and loading down the engine more, and the coolant system has a big job to do. But with the new radiator, it *should* be able to handle all this *easily*. I’m gonna hit Auto Zone after I get done with breakfast at the Desert Sky Cafe and replace the radiator cap and the thermostat. I’ll also let the car heat up at idle with the hood open so I can see where the fuck the coolant is escaping the system. I may also add another overflow to the existing one so I can at *least* reclaim the coolant I’m losing. At the rate I’m using it , I’m paying almost as much for coolant per mile as I am for gas!

I’m experimenting with blogging using my iPad and bluetooth keyboard. So far the main issue is that the WordPress App doesn’t support most of the fancy formatting interface I’m used to from my Mac. Otherwise, it’s a much lighter-weight solution, and I’m gonna keep pushing for a better solution.

I had a truly fabulous time at the Wagon Wheel BBQ in Ozona. I found them on Yelp, and almost missed the place, because it looks like a old-timey gas station. Despite my 30-minutes-before-close arrival, Kirby and what was obviously his family gave me a huge, understated Texas welcome. There were only three big tables, and two of them were occupied by family members eating their evening meal. After leaving me alone to enjoy some of the best brisket, sausage, potato salad, and cole slaw I’ve ever had, Kirby sat down and we shot the shit about car problems, the dangers of Juarez and the drug cartels, well-loved cowboy hats, and the trials of getting Yelp to map his business properly. After my meal, he not only helped me check out the car, he got two large jugs and insisted I take some filtered water with me just in case. And, although I could have walked 15 feet to get the quarter for the second bottle, he paid for it out of his own pocket instead. Talk about service! The slogan that “you’ll feel like family” is so overused, but add to all that the introduction to his two adorable dogs, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like family so quickly as at the Wagon Wheel! Thanks Kirby!

My old friend Chris Robison let me borrow his bluetooth On Board Diagnostic module for the trip. With a bit of jailbreak voodoo necessary to work around Apple’s crippling of it’s bluetooth stack, I was able to get Dash Command to connect the cars computer on both my iPhone 4S and my iPad Mini. And it’s *so* *fucking* *cool*. I originally wanted it to diagnose reduced fuel economy in the Metro, to look at technical things like Short and Long Term Fuel Trim, O2 sensors, etc. You can see most of this shit on your iOS or Android device while the car is running. It can also turn your screen into an extension of the instrument cluster, with everything from speed, power, fuel economy, fuel flow, RPM, and a million other things at your fingertips.

So here’s the moment where the Geek Factor completely Exploded My Brain:

I’m noticing there is a difference in the speed reading on the dash and on the iPad. They *should* both be coming from the same source, and I’m concerned one being inaccurate might screw up my mileage calculations. So what I need is a THIRD SPEEDOMETER TO BREAK THE TIE. So I go onto the App Store, find a simple, free GPS-based speedometer, and five minutes later, I’m seeing ALL THREE SPEEDS AT THE SAME TIME!!! And guess what? It’s the gauge on the *car* that is a few MPH conservative! The GPS and the direct-feed from the cars computer were nearly the same, the dash in the car was about 3 MPH slower. All this cruising at 70 MPH through the New Mexico darkness!

And the cruise control! The trip is *so* much better with it! Did I mention that I made this 4400 mile round trip last year without it? Without being able to recline my seat very much? And that I’m 6′ 2″? The Metro seat was *not* designed for someone my size. Understand that the headrest, which isn’t adjustable, pokes me in the lower part of my neck, and you can imagine what the curvature does to my back! Thanks to a gel pillow from Mom, more vigorous enforcement of anterior reclination space, and the cruise control, my back is *so* much happier than last year!

Finally, after getting to Deming at 2:30 AM local time, 3:30 AM Central Time from where I started, it was time to Make the Bed. I had to move stuff than most people can fit in their SUVs from on top of the yurt-roll/bed space just to get access. I’d also had a problem for most of the trip where the sleeping platform I slapped together in the dying light the night before I left shifted in transit, and was no longer level. It extend over the shifter in 5th gear, so every time I shifted into or out of that gear I had to life the corner of that platform, which was half-covered with half the cargo in the car. It was a total bitch. Now the same problem reared it’s head as I was trying to sleep. The platform, which is simply a big board that lies on top of the yurt roll, wasn’t level, and having already spent 30 minutes transferring all the shit that had previously been on top of it, I wasn’t able to get to the bottom of it to try to re-level it. The result was that the sleeping situation was nearly as bad as last year, with me being dumped drunkenly into the Big Pile of Crap in the left half of the car. Add to that the claustrophobia of insufficient air circulation, the poor security of cracked windows, and the general discomfort of sleeping in a car in a truck stop in the middle of fucking nowhere near the Mexican border, and I didn’t get much sleep. However, it *was* blissful to get the weight off my lower back, and with the addition of better leveling and some decent airflow, maybe from an a fan, auxiliary battery, and/or solar panel, and it *could* be quite comfortable.

The evolution continues.

I’m finished eating breakfast, and am headed to Auto Zone where I’ll see if I can decode this fucking coolant problem. Then I’m off to hopefully see Touch in San Diego, where I’ll get to sleep in a real bed with people I at least sort-of know. I know if I’ll get to see him, as his partner has been in the hospital. She is recovering well, but it looks like he’ll be there overnight with her tonight. I may try to go visit him there if I make it soon enough. If not I’ll try to catch him on my way back.

Will insert more pictures soon.

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