Getting a Head Start

Since i’m not headed to Tulsa this weekend, I thought I’d at least match up orders to the pile of boxes I’ve collected, clean out the toolbox, and maybe get a jump on an easy item or two.

Between RockAuto and eBay, looks like everything did arrive as expected.

I figured the FM antenna assembly and a long-shot quick-fix for the blinker would be easy to knock out. I was almost right about both.

Unfortunately, after I got the antenna cable routed and the radio reinstalled, I realized I have nothing to screw the antenna assembly into. The broken factory antenna clipped in; there wasn’t anything inside the fender under that hole. So I’ll see if I can snag a makeshift fastener from AutoZone tomorrow.

My blinker problems started when I swapped out the right-front turn signal — now both right side blinkers remain on solid when the headlights are on. I thought maybe replacing the left-front was worth a shot, since they’re sold in pairs. That did not fix the issue, but I’ll take a win from not having made it any worse…

Then my sunglesses broke. You know the same sunglasses I’ve had since before that very first fisheye selfie at Dana point? The ones that have come in extra handy lately as a a way to keep my covid-hair out of my face? Yeah those. Great sadness.

Mail Call

While I was back in St. Louis for that wedding I mentioned on the Coronaroadtrip, my folks received a giant pile of stuff. In exchange for hauling it away, I was rewarded with dinner and a small loaf of homemade pumpkin bread. I’ll call that a win.

Good stuff. I think this is everything but I should do a proper inventory tomorrow to make sure. I also found an extra bit of joy on eBay:

A Matchbox Nissan D21 — to go with Xterra the Mini that Evan gave me in Arkansas.

In another episode of “we get by with a little help from our friends…”

And once I wasn’t teetering between differently inflated tires, I ran to AutoZone to swap out that fuse.

15A circut with a 10A fuse…

Oh, that’s why that blew out as soon as I asked it to do something more than charge a speedometer phone. At least it’s an easy fix.

And another thing

I had grand plans to take the truck climbing today. The crag is about an hour from here, and is also the site of the longest test drive I took in the Celica before leaving for Albuquerque.

And one inflated tire later, the fuse for the power outlet let go.

Jumpstarting the Dead

After yesterday’s display, I was in a hurry to figure out if I could even get the truck started. I rolled it further down the street to get the Xterra in front of it for another jumpstart attempt. Seems I left the door slightly ajar last night, so the battery was entirely knackered.

For a while, no signs of life. I was worried I’d killed him. Then in desperation, I did a direct battery-to-battery connection (do not do this) and tried once more. Success! An exhausted rumble, one more covid-cough of smoke, and the sound of a running engine if somewhat wobbly.

I went for a resurrection drive — first along my running route through the neighborhood, then five laps of I35’s frontage u-turns between Airport and 290 — about fifteen miles total. Once I was satisfied that I’d gathered enough electricity and nothing more had spewed out of the tailpipe or engine bay, I wandered over to a wash.

Good as new. More or less. Once back home, I did an inspection of the tires and a little fiddling with the lights, to remind myself what was broken about them.

For their age, the tires look surprisingly good, but they’ve only got 13,000 miles on them. The light situation is weird, because of course it is. Since I swapped out that front-right blinker, the blinkers work fine if the headlights are off. If I turn the headlights on, the right-turn signals (front and back) turn on and stay on.

Faith restored. But much is still needed.

The Reunion that Hasn’t Been. Yet.


We knew 2020 was the five year anniversary of the Pacific Coast Highway and had been mulling over the possibility of a reunion drive. Then something called “COVID-19” happened and things got very weird. We shelved the idea of a trip, but kept thinking about what we might be able to do. Meanwhile, except the big Coronaroadtrip, I haven’t been driving much. I haven’t even started the truck in maybe six months. I feel bad.

But Google Photos popped up yesterday with an “On This Day 5 Years Ago” notification, with this photo from the day I brought the Pickup home from the shipping terminal. Parked behind Xterra the Elder, for extra nostalgia. So I’m taking Evan and George up on a generous offer: what if the reunion was a week or two of wrenching on the truck over Halloween?

Because it so desperately needs attention.

I tried to start it last night. I knew it’d need a jump and that sometimes after sitting a while, it coughs itself to life over a little cloud of smoke. But I looked back and it was spewing chunks of rusted tailpipe or muffler along with the smoke. Watching solids fly out of the tailpipe was alarming. I need to be a better person, I owe a lot to this truck.

Ultimately, I think the truck can clear its throat and start if given another push, but if I’m going to emit that much carbon, I’d rather do it discreetly. For that and because the apartment asked everyone to vacate the lot so it can be repainted, I rolled the truck out of my spot, did a three-point turn, pushed it down the driveway, and out onto the street and parallel parked it, Flintstone-style. Disgraceful.

The Pacific Coast Reunion PunchWrenchlist

It’s not a short list. That just means we get to pick and choose.

  • Major
    • Coolant and clutch leaks — because they both leak
    • Muffler and/or tailpipe damage — from whatever that was
    • Fluids flushes
    • Rear drum brakes are near EOL
    • Tires may be near EOL
  • Minor
    • Weather stripping on the driver’s side finally cracked — parts on order
    • Passenger door handle is broken — I have had this part for a while…
    • FM antenna needs to be replaced and rewired — parts on order
    • Rust spots need to be treated
    • After replacing a blinker lightbulb, I’ve had some trouble with lights working intermittently. This should not be huge, but it would block state inspection, which expires in :checks watch: today days.
  • Nice-to-haves
    • Radio swap for a Bluetooth receiver and new speakers with covers

Signing off in the Sand Dunes

I figured out that if Utah was on the way from Montana to Texas, Colorado could be on the way, too. I’ve tried to add Great Sand Dune National Park to several trips before, but it’s always been off the route. What I really want to do is take Medano Pass out of the park, but I didn’t want to do that solo. So after work on Friday, I left Alamosa for the park, did a little 2 mile hike up to an overlook, and then attempted to hike to the top of the dune. It was a colossal ass kicking and I did not make it to the top before sunset, but I got close enough for a great view to end my last hike of this trip.

High Dune Trail

After that, a long way back to Austin — finally opting for the direct route. I stopped overnight in Dalhart for another night of car camping, but I ended up a little too close to an active rail line for a solid night sleep. I think the train horn bast at 2am smashed out all the Xterra’s windows. Too bad there were trains at 4 and 6, also.

In all, that makes 30 days, 6,199 driven miles, 60 hiked miles, (only…) 10 running miles, and a little climbing though five national parks, four national forests, and sixteen states on this “work on the road, hike in a mask” social-distancing, loosely planned, ever-so-slightly inspired-by-a-computer-game impromptu roadtrip. Weird times, but time in nature was cleansing, and needed.

I suppose I should figure out what Arthur Morgan is up to these days. I bring news from the west.

One more sunset in Canyonlands

Left work a little late and also did not realize that the Needles District (southeast entrance of the park near Monticello, Utah) is an hour from the highway. So that turned into more of a detour than a hike on the drive. On the way in, a birthday:

Happy 90th, bud. Glad it was in a National Park.

As I started up the trail, the sun was already behind a canyon wall. Two hikers coming down looked at me, puzzled, and asked, “You’re starting your hike now?” Followed soon after by two hikers who had gotten into more than they’d intended begging to know that the trailhead was close. Both good omens…

So when I came around the wall and saw the sun low over a big valley, I swapped my 7 mile hike for a short scramble up a giant sandstone slab for a sunset beer instead.

Made it Alamosa, Colorado far later than I meant to. Also sad that I did the entire Wolf Creek Pass in the dark because it seems gorgeous. I hadn’t realized the elevation until I felt the air thin while I was driving out around 10,000 feet. But I also found more in Needles that I want to do, so I guess I’ll just have to come back.