Stewball’s Revenge

June 20: 021We are now in Rapid City, SD and rode the steam train to Hill City in the Black Hills.

But this blog is about our problem day, three days ago. The drive was a very long one from St. Ignace, MI to Duluth, MN., 415 miles.  Beautiful scenery along lake Superior. 038

We had made the decision to drop out of the rally for the day to get to Duluth early. My sister and brother-in-law were meeting us there for a bit of the afternoon, dinner and the evening. They had booked the same hotel as the rally.

Apparently Stewball didn’t like our plan. On the rally we have two support vehicles with excellent, dedicated mechanics who follow behind. Today, we were on our own. All was well until we stopped for gas somewhere in the western part of Michigan’s UP. The car wouldn’t start. We had just changed drivers and I assumed it was me. No so, the battery was not being charged. The young attendant gave us a push and we were on our way- for a while. Ed was afraid to turn the car off so we ate lunch in the car with it running. He wanted to get into Duluth so we would have help figuring out the Why behind this.

Then as we approached  Ironwood, the engine to falter. As we slowed to make a turn, it quit. We pushed it off into a side road by a realtor’s office. She very graciously called the local garage. They had the battery we needed but we had to unload everything 046

from the back since that is where the battery is before the guy came and put it in. This would get us to Duluth. Ed drove the rest of the way thinking about what was wrong. He was certain it was the generator. The battery wasn’t being charged and had finally run down. He carried a spare generator, one of our many spare parts.

We arrived at the hotel in drizzling rain. The mechanics were far behind so we had an early dinner with my sister and Ed headed back to the car. Replacing the generator is a big, time-consuming job. What Andy (our favorite mechanic) discovered was one of the terminals to the generator had been over-tightened when a new one was put on after our rally in Africa. The terminal had broken off and was lying in the engine compartment.

Andy and car repairSeveral hours of work and we were back in operation. The only remaining problem was the engine hood had to come off for access and getting it back on Andy said to Ed. “It’s time for you to go to bed. We’ll finish up. You don’t want to hear what we will say while getting  this in place.”

They did get it on, but without the spring to hold it up, so for the rest of the trip, I will hold it up each time Ed checks or adds oil.

Next time we will consult Stewball before we change plans.

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Birthday in Buffalo

June 13. 008The seventh day of our rally, I celebrated my birthday in Ed and me-bUFFALOBuffalo. I won’t say which one, those who know, know and those who don’t know, don’t need to know. This was a day off from driving. Stewball had a rest and I had the whole day.

Celebrating actually started when we arrived June 12th to be met by 001three friends who were on our NY to Paris rally in 2011, Jeff Mahl, and Jack and Mary Crabtree. More later on why we all ended up in Buffalo.

FullSizeRender (3)My birthday morning started with a breakfast visit from more friends, Chuck and Janice Tomlinson, Canadian friends who live just a short distance from Buffalo. We’ve been friends for 30 years. It has probably been 10 years since we’ve met face to face so this was a wonderful start to the day. We promised it would not be so long before we meet again.

017The afternoon included a trip to Niagara Falls. Ed had never been there and my only visit was when I was a child. Most of the ralliest loaded into buses for the trip. Only those who had to work on their cars didn’t come.  While the falls are beautiful, it was disappointing to see how commercial the whole thing is. We compared it to our trip to Victoria Falls last year and I admit, Niagara didn’t match up. Still I’m glad we went.019

006Then the evening. Jeff Mahl presented his  great-grandfather’s story of the 1908 NY to Paris race. It is still the longest race around the world and the American team, headed by George Schuster in his 1907 Thomas Flyer won. At least technically, the German team arrived in Paris first, but was penalized, giving the win to the American team. Everyone I talked to from our Trans-American rally agreed that even our worse day didn’t compare to the personal hardships, physical and emotional challenges and car problems the men in 1908 faced. What ever inspired them and motivated them? They were truly explorers and adventurers.

What is our connection? Ed and I participated in a rally celebrating this 1908 event in 2011 along with three other teams. We have not all been together since 2011 and everyone was 004in Buffalo for Jeff’s presentation and a reunion. The dinner for our rally was held at the Pierce Arrow museum. I spent another Jan-Bdaybirthday with this group in China in 2011.

It was a day full of special people and events. I went to bed more worn out than after a day of rallying.

Enough about me. The next two days take us from Buffalo to Bay City, Michigan and then across the Mackinaw Bridge to St. Ignace then on to Duluth Minnesota where I will meet my sister. Wait, didn’t I say enough about me?

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Escaped Convicts

June 11,12. 010I know I am repeating myself when I say everyday on a rally is different. But so far, this one wins the prize. We crossed from Quebec City over Pont de Quebec, the longest cantilever bridge in the world to Old Forge in the Adirondacks. 002

009Rouses Point is normally this is a quiet crossing but not when two convicted murderers from the Clinton maximum security prison. Our border crossing was very slow. But then, we had to undergo three state trooper stop-and-search points and one detour since the convicts are still thought to be in the heavily wooded area around Cadyville, the exact town were to pass through. In addition to some 800 law enforcement officers the roads sides were clogged with every news network. I just have to wonder what the all these news folks are doing since it is now June 15 and these two guys are still at large. How many local citizens can you interview and ask, “Are you afraid to answer your door? Go out at night?” They could have interviewed us and ask why all these old cars were driving through  Cadyville, NY.

I have to admit, all the police were most polite and especially when it was our turn to be “searched”, they simply waved us on with a “have a good trip.” Obviously Stewball could not hold one convict, let alone two.

Stewball did collide with a moose before leaving Canada, but fortunately no serious damage was done to either the car or the moose. 005

We ended our day with a Fireman’s BBQ in Old Forge, the largest town-some 2,000-in the Adirondack Mountains. 003

Next, my birthday in Buffalo.

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Moving West

June 10,002 In Quebec. We’ve completed days 2 and 3 which took us to Quebec City and a day off today at Le Chateau 027de Frontenac. The sun is out finally but so far we’ve driven in lots of rain and on muddy rutty dirt roads-just so we remember this is not an ordinary road trip. It’s amazing the road conditions-and lovely small towns- one can find by getting off the highway!009

On day 2 from Moncton to Edmundston, we drove 012through three covered bridges and experienced the optical illusion called Magnetic Hill. In my option, for tourists only. (note to self, skip this in the future.) Day 3 we drove along the St. Lawrence and the language  changed from English to French.  The challenge this day was for 007the navigator, roads were not well-marked. We applaud ourselves for not missing a turn, only one near miss, but skidded pasted and backed up with no time lost. We did well on the regularity, but some cars actually hit the time perfectly. Overall we will not score well because I refuse to drive another track and we get a penalty for skipping it. That said, this is not the reason we do theses events.

017Stewball has his second ride on a ferry, the first one was the crossing from Portland, ME to Yarmouth, NS before the rally began.

I’m still hunting moose, but this is the closest we’ve come to seeing one. 014 (2)

P.S. In case you missed my last post, a Regularity means you drive a particular track-usually a dirt or gravel road at a given average speed for a given distance. It’s about precise driving not fast driving. The circuit tests are on race tracks and are all about fast driving. Not for us or our car. Those driving sports cars  love these events.

Tomorrow we cross the border back into the US.

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Nova Scotia to New Brunswick

June 7, Day 1: 016I don’t think a day could have anymore variety in driving. We had lots of secondary roads, some good, others full of pot holes. We drove on a race track (make that I drove), dirt, gravel and tarmac (that’s British for paved roads) and finally on the Trans-Canadian Highway to end in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We left this morning from Citadel Hill in Halifax in the sun but with 025024cold wind. The photo is our send-off marshal. In fact we had wind most of the day and poor Stewball had a hard time holding the road. I’m surprised some Canadian Mounty didn’t stop us and  make us walk the line assuming our erratic driving was due to what we were smoking. If we count the miles sideways, I know we travel more than any other car.

031We were looking forward to the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tides in the world and is a critical habitat for eight species of whales.  It didn’t live up to it’s reputation. It looked like any big body of water and NO whales. Very disappointing.

I’m looking for a moose but so far, the only wildlife I’ve seen, other than our compatriots at the bar at the  end of the day, was a big fat porcupine waddling along side the road.

028My excitement for the day was driving a Regularity on a race track in Shubenacadie,  a 2.4 km track with 11 turns. Now a Regularity means the rally gives you an average speed and you TRY to maintain that average for two laps. The average was 80 kph. No way could I do this. I am not aggressive enough and  Stewball doesn’t have the power to make up for the tight turns. Even knowing I couldn’t begin to hit the time, it was fun until another driver, when overtaking me, suddenly went to the inside and slammed his brakes, tires screeching. I still don’t know if I did anything wrong, but for a few moments, I was sure he was going to rear end Stewball. I think Ed was more scared than I was because he had no idea that another car was behind us until we heard theses pre-crash sounds. Now, this way sound just a little bit of revenge, but when we got in, this same entrant had his wheels off and the driver was under the car.

Tomorrow we have the option to drive on the Petty Raceway. I will not be doing it. We have three weeks to go, and we are more interested in finishing than scoring well.

We will see what tomorrow bring. The route book sounds interesting and it will be very different from today. Ever heard of a magnetic hill and the optical illusion that it appears you are rolling up hill backward?

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A Short P.S.

June 3. Neils signYesterday at 3:00 we had the call from Neil’s Motors. Stewball was ready to roll. The wiper motor was in a everything was working Jerry Boissonnault,  service manager and his very Jerry at Neilscompetent mechanics went beyond doing a good job for us, fitting us in and getting the work done so early that we were hardly even anxious! We highly recommend  them if you need service in this area.

002Tonight we load Stewball and ourselves onto the Nova Star ferry (photo from our hotel window) to Nova Scotia and finish the drive to Halifax.

More from the road.

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The Adventure Begins

June 2, 2015:026 Our rally doesn’t officially start from Halifax, NS, Canada until June 7, but  our adventure has already begun. We left NC on May 29. Ed wanted to have some extra time, “just in case”.  We are now in Portland, Maine where we will take the ferry to Nova Scotia on Wednesday. Stewball is at Neil’s Motors. DSCN3826Now that’s the spoiler. Here’s the adventure.

Day 1. Since we had time, we decided to take the back roads north. We did not use the GPS, but had printed out MapQuest which is more like following a rally route. Then we got lost. Somewhere in NW Virginia, north of Richmond and south of Culpepper. The good part was we discovered a wonderful French restaurant in Orange, Virginia.

Day 2. Change of plan. Follow the GPS around DC, Baltimore and NYC. All went well and we realized we could get to Oxford, CT and have dinner with Ed’s sister and her husband. 027Only problem that day was the heat.  Had another good dinner and lots of laughs when first Arnold and then Jayne tipped over their wine spilling it on their clothes. It must have been the stemware, this just can’t happen to four responsible adults.

Day 3. Sunday. Rain and more rain. From the start, Ed was worried about the wipers. This was the only problem we had on our shake down trip to the NC mountains earlier but Bob Hicks, our usually dependable VDub guru had fixed it and assured us all was fine. Famous last words. Now 1 1/2 hours from Portland, they quit. I was driving. I pulled off at the exit and we tried to find a station that would at least let us pull the car into a bay so Ed could hopefully find the problem. We were hoping it was just a fuse. Seems no one on a Sunday has the authority to open a bay. We finally convinced a young man to let us at least put the car under his pump shelter but other than getting soaked, Ed could not find the problem. So we coated the windows with RainX and hit the highway again. I white-knuckled it all the way to our hotel. RainX does work, but it can’t compete with big rigs passing at highway speeds and a little Maine fog tossed in.

Day 4. Monday. I won’t bother you with details but we spent the early morning hours trying to find someone in the area who works on vintage VWs. We finally hit on the best. Neil’s Motors. I drove in the rain-again-to this shop and the very persistent and patient service manager made numerous phone calls hunting for this wiper motor. For you non-67 VDub folks. This is the one part that is almost impossible to find. It is unique to the 67 but anyone who converts an earlier year to a 12 volt system uses this wiper motor.

Then Ed remembered. In 2006 we had replaced this part. He had all the car papers with him and then name, Bug City in CT. One more phone call. He had the part and would ship next day air. Neil’s Motors even provided a loaner and garaged Stewball.

Day 5. While we wait (anxiously) to hear if the part is in and wipers working we took a trolley tour of Portland (still in the rain and cold) which included the oldest lighthouse in Maine. 021We have until tomorrow evening when the ferry departs for Halifax to see if Ed, Stewball and I will be onboard.

Cross your fingers.

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