Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Trip home!...journey, adventure, car trouble

On the 19th of July we loaded up my stuff in the back of the 1992 Lincoln Town Car that I had left up in Minot ND.  I had put 2 new tires on the front and checked the fluids. We were ready! We hit the road in the morning and after about 11 hours made it to Livingston MT. We spent the night at a nice hotel and got a nice start and headed down through Yellowstone National Park and enjoyed the geysers and other Geological/Volcanic sights and then set off to Pocatello ID to go to the grave of my great grand father to get some pictures for my Ancestry dot come account. We spent the night at another nice hotel and got up and headed for the Cemetery. It was easy to find the grave site and get the pictures. We then fueled up and headed home. It was a great trip you should see all the pictures!

Yes we were ready. We started out early and started west.  I stopped and took some pictures for a blog posting I will do later and stopped in Tioga ND to show the cute girlfriend where I use to work. The car was running fine and all was good. We even stopped to take a scary picture for a friend.
This is a Man Camp in Williston ND, called Black Gold a friend of ours did his Intern-ship here. We posted it on Facebook and said "BOO"!  Well here Greg...BOO

The car. It is a 1992 Lincoln Town Car. It had 236,000 miles on the ODO when we left Minot. I packed the trunk and the back seat with most of the stuff I had accumulated in a year and a half of living in North Dakota. Some of it I had to disassemble to make it all fit.  After my mom's death my dad had given me this car because he didn't need two cars now. My good friend in North Dakota described the car best, "A large comfortable couch on four wheels".  My dad not to long ago had put a new motor and trans in the car and it was still running great. It has some age related issues but is still a nice car.

We were heading to Livingston MT to spend a night at the Comfort Inn there and go to Yellowstone the next morning, but the vacation gods and the adventure gods seamed to be in chaos or something. All was going well when all of the sudden the car dies going up this hill about 10 miles from Miles City MT.  I pop the hood and check things over and wonder if I have some bad gas because the car started right up a few minutes later. We drive on to Miles City and get some fuel and I throw in some fuel injector cleaner and some fuel additive thinking I let the car sit most of the winter on a half empty tank and I had some junk in it.

A note here, the car has a worn out part in the steering column which causes the starter switch to only partially engage, so the car doesn't always start on the first turn of the key.

We hit the road again and the car dies again. We are on the side of the road and it is over 90 outside.
It had died just as we passed a rest stop, so I get her running again and back it down into the rest stop to see if I could find the fuel filter on this boat, because it was acting like it was clogging up.  I text my brother because he had a Mercury Product similar to this car and I figure he might know where the filter was.  I couldn't find the filter and the brother was not returning the text.  We drove on and it died again, this time near an off ramp so I pulled down it. This is the sign half way down the ramp.
  I post this picture on Facebook and said this was not the off ramp to break down on in the middle of no where MT.  This is the picture cute girlfriend took of me for her Facebook.
Hang Dawg!...No Rocket Science Jokes Please!

I start looking up on my phone where the nearest Auto Parts Store is...thank goodness for smart phones and thank goodness that there was phone service with data.  I get a call from my brother and he gets me in the right direction for the fuel filter. We get to talking and I do the rhetorical question "why does this have to happen out here in BFE".  He of course answers the rhetorical question with a question.  "You know what kind of car you are driving don't you?"

He just had to remind me. For a little bit, if all you Ford fans can move by this section.

Yes Lincoln is part of the Ford Corporation, and us Chevy fans know very well what Ford stands for.
Is not it

In my experience it more often turns out to be..


I know the Ford Motor Company has been around for 100 years, and there are a lot of people that have had marvelous luck with their products.  I'm not one of them.

My friend in Minot called me not long after that in answer to my text to him on our current condition. I asked him again why he likes Fords. He laughed.

Well I called a local parts store to see if they could bring a fuel filter out, they said they couldn't but gave me the phone number to a guy that could. The number was to American Tow in Hysham MT, I talked to a nice gentleman there and he agreed that he could come out and even put the filter on for me. About 40 minutes later he arrived and went to work on the filter, he removed the filter and blew through it. No junk came out and it was not very restricted.  This is actually the bad news.

The gentleman's name was Wes and he is the owner of American Tow. He was rather familiar with the problem and described it for me. He said that the fuel pump in these vehicles get old and can't take the heat and either starts vapor locking or running low pressure in the heat and the motor finally starves for fuel.

We crossed our fingers and hoped it was just the filter. Thanked Wes, told him I would make him famous on my world famous Adventure Blog and hit the road.  We made it about 20 miles before it died again. Now knowing that it was a heat issue we would just let the car cool down and it would drive for another 10 miles or so. This was not good on a 90 plus degree day.  Cute girlfriend was slowly melting and not very patient with our predicament.  We needed to make it to Billings and hopefully find a shop that can work on the car.
It was still 40 miles away.  We drove for a while the car died we let it cool off. Repeat.  Finally it died near an off ramp that said it had services.  We let the pump cool down and got off the freeway.  We made our way down to this small community gas station and pulled in and got some cool drinks. There was no mechanic shop nearby.  There was a car wash there though and the cute girlfriend had the idea of washing the car down to cool it off. I did one better and totally hosed down the fuel tank to cool it off.

The fuel pump. Ford/Lincoln/Mercury in their infinite wisdom had designed the only fuel pump that is immersed in a tank of gas that can get hot. Pump surrounded by nice cooling gas, but then surround the tank with all the heat from the motor and the huge exhaust system and add to that 100 degrees baking upward from the road.  No forethought here. The cooling off was a good trick. We rolled on to Billings without a hick-up. Once in Billings I assessed that we were not going to make Livingston tonight. This sucked because I had ordered on Priceline dot Com a nice Hotel room for us. From there we were going to launch into Yellowstone for some site seeing. Cute girlfriend wanted to see the Old Faithful Lodge, well she wanted to stay there but the prices were through the roof on that gig.

I call the hotel there and  told them of our predicament and the lady at the front desk generously cancelled my reservation and gave me the number to their Hotel branch in Billings.  The people at the Comfort Inn were very nice to deal with and very helpful, and as always it is a nice room and they have a breakfast for you in the morning.

I water down the tank again in town and head for the Billings Comfort Inn. We get a room and pile into it and turn on the air conditioning. I call the Comfort Inn back in the town of Livingston to find out what the process is to get my money transferred back to my account.  She finds out I booked from Priceline and said it was up to them to get the money back from them...sigh  She gave me the cancellation number and I called Priceline.

I get a nice lady on the phone and she tells me that I have to pay a cancellation fee. I'm ok with this they offered a service and it is not their fault I'm having car troubles.  When she tells me how much the fee is my long trip heat stroked mind went into shock. I patiently asked for her supervisor. I explained my situation to her. I told her that I had been using Priceline dot Com since they started business and I don't mind paying a little fee to recoup their cost in this deal but not almost all my money. She called the Comfort Inn back in Livingston and seemed to get it all straightened out and refunded me all my money.
Kudos to Priceline for helping me out.  For a second there I thought I was going to have to take down Capt. Kirk to get some money from them...whew!.   All is well and I'm Happy to promote Priceline dot Com. I have received some awesome deals on flights and hotels over the years.

We were getting hungry. On the way to the Hotel we had noticed a Southern California Fast Food Staple, Del Taco!  It was within walking distance of our room.  We hadn't had Del Taco in ages so I walked over and got us some. 

I spend some time before bed looking up my Auto Repair options in Billings MT.  Found a Sears Auto Center not to far from the Hotel.  We got up around 8 and had some breakfast in the lobby and packed up and headed to Sears.  Luck was not with us once again.  Sears does not do much car work anymore. The guy there suggest a place way down the street. Oh I forgot to tell you it is Saturday to make things worse.
We go down to this other shop and the guy said he could do the job but he probably couldn't do it that day because he was a man short and people were already in ahead of me. Strike Two!

I was in a daze. What was plan B?  Press on and do the water the tank thing for the next 600 miles. Get stuck here until Monday, a very bad option for cute girlfriend she need to be at work then.  We ended back up near the Hotel and I saw a Ford Dealership.  They had one of those Quick Lane Express Lube Centers there. I can not tell you how expensive hourly rates at the dealers are.  They could do it and we found and available part nearby. They said worst case would be that they could have it done by 5pm, if all went well earlier.

Poor Cute Girlfriend is seeing us getting home later and later and is getting a little worried. I set her up in the customer lounge with the Laptop and get her on the Ford WiFi. It worked great!

I paced back and forth waiting for the car to go in. A slot opened up and the part arrived and the job actually went better than planned. Usually you have to pull the tank down to get at these fuel pumps.
The guy running the shop was actually a good technician and had done one of these not too long ago. He moved some things out of the way and with a little arm stretching was able to get the pump in. The Adventure gods where maybe showing pity on use.  We were out by noon. Almost 500 bucks too...sigh

Cute girlfriend had seen a Cracker Barrel near the freeway and wanted to stop because she had never been in one. We looked over the great bunch of Americana in their gift shop and almost bought some Red Solo Cup string lights. Time to hit the road

I tell the Lincoln that there will be no more trouble for the rest of the trip and we make for I-90 west. It is warm again and the AC is not blowing as cold as she should. We make it to Livingston ok, although the car did a couple of quiet hick-ups just to keep me worried. I'm thinking I can charge the AC and get us some cool air in the car, but all the auto parts stores are closed in Livingston.  There was a Yellowstone area Gift shop next to the gas station we stopped at, and cute girlfriend got some things.

We pressed on to Bozeman MT. I sweated when we pulled into town. I had already broke down here one time and I didn't want it to happen again. I saw a Walmart from the freeway and thought I could get what I needed to charge the cars AC there. This is and old car so I would need some new style AC charging adapters to make this work. I buy what I need and get under the hood and Ford Fails again.  There is only Lincoln Serviceable stuff here and while I was trying see what was wrong with the adapters I let the last of the freon out.  Kind of like Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown...AAAH!

I had to take all the stuff back in and get my money back.  It is about 6pm and we are once again hot and tired. Cute girlfriend suggest we just stop here and call it a day, I suggest we try to shoot for Butte MT to make some miles today and start driving in that direction hot and miserable and dejected. I start doing the  math after I see a miles to Butte sign. We would get there real late and I just wasn't up to it so we stopped at the next town west of Bozeman and pulled into a Super 8 Motel. We get our gear in and go to a restaurant that was suggested at the front desk.  Fail!! Restaurant Closed for some festival back in Bozeman!

Serendipity! we go off in search of place to eat and hoping we don't have to go to the truck stop.  We spin into the old part of this town and right by the railroad tracks we find a sign that says BBQ.  It is in some old rail side storage type building with a dirt parking lot.  This BBQ was the best thing that had happened so far on this return adventure. It lightened our spirits some.  The food was good and I even got one of their Micro Brews to take with me back to the Hotel room. I drank my beer and cute girlfriend use the hotel hot tube for a few minutes. We went to bed.

We got up early and had what Super 8 calls their breakfast. Once frozen hard boiled eggs and cereals and coffee.  We pull out of the driveway and the car slips into neutral for a second. I know what this is. This poor old car has a leak in one of the cooling lines. I can see the oil coming out from under the car in small dots but never can find where it comes from. I stop and get some trans fluid and top it off and hit the I-90 again. I got us up to 75 and we stayed that way most of the way to Butte.

We had seen some signs and picked up a brochure for a candy store in some town west of Butte somewhere called Phillipsburg. I finally see a sign for it and there is a rest stop at the off ramp to this place.  I ask the cute girlfriend if she would like to go there. We needed to do something fun on this trip from hell.

She agreed. After using the rest stop we turned left onto this Montana Scenic Byway heading towards Phillipsburg. We haven't gone a mile when a sign saying "Opportunity" with an arrow pointing to the right passes us.  Cute girlfriend says "now that is a sign we should take a picture of" naturally there is no where to turn around to go get it. I used one from the web though.

Thank you for the image.
Just when we think that Opportunity has passed us by another town sign comes up.

Thank you Allen Russell.
I hoped this was a good sign for our little excursion.
We went through another town Anaconda and started up into the hills and passed a few inviting lakes and finally made it to Phillipsburg. We took a walk around this old Montana mining town. Old brick buildings from the late 1800's and landed at our destination. The Sweet Palace. It was a very sinful place for people with sweet tooth's and having just made our minds up to start the low carb

It had tons of hard candy and a big taffy puller in the window.  There was a guy up front running a very antique taffy wrapping machine. That was fun to watch. Cute girlfriend bought some fudge and got me some dark chocolate with cashews in it. It was a fun stop.

We make it back to I-90 and start the trek home again. We stop in Missoula MT for gas and a bite to eat.
It is here that the final nail in the hell that is this trip hit. Cute girlfriend can't find her debit card. I call the Sweet Palace.  They have the card.  That card is where all the money is right now.  I use my smart phone to move some cash out of savings to get us home. I had them mail her card to the house and a few days later it showed up thank goodness.

We trudge on and finally pass over a high mountain pass and drop into Idaho. The panhandle of Idaho is filled with old Mining towns from the 1800's and just before the Washington state line you pass by beautiful lake Coeur d'alene and then plop into Spokane WA.

The GPS was giving me a route after Spokane that took us all the way to the outskirts of Seattle and slipped us back through Tacoma. I had it in my head that if we went down the southern route almost the way we came up by train and stay on the Washington side I would probably save a few miles and it would be a hell of a lot cooler.

When you hit the Columbia River you can take the freeway on the Oregon side or take highway 14 on the Washington side. We had been riding in a 90 degree car most of the afternoon so I figured when we started seeing pine trees it would cool off.

I like this route it is very scenic and you get to pass by Stonehenge. You also get to go by the place that Sam Hill Built. Yes that Sam Hill.  Stonehenge is a replica of the original and is a War Memorial, I haven't seen it yet but I hope too.  Stonehenge is also at a place called Mary Hill and there is a place that Sam Hill built and is now an Art Museum and they both over look the Columbia River.

Cute girlfriend has some bad memories from this area so she was not enjoying that part of the trip.  She was impressed on how much had changed since she was last through. It was evening and we were almost home so we didn't stop. Someday I want to do some things in that Columbia River Gorge. I can't wait.

We made it home around 7pm and sat down and breathed a sigh of relief.  Not the best time spent off.
I now have a nice Lincoln Town Car for sale....look for it on Craig's List

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