Okay boys and girls… just got back from my record setting, amazing, visually stimulating and often copied but never duplicated west coast trip code named "Operation Desert Dog"… otherwise known as let's get this damn thing running and head for home"...
So I departed Milwaukee on July 15 (5:30 AM flight…)via Frontier Airlines headed for LAX… that's Los Angeles for those of you in Rio Linda. One stopover in Denver to change planes. Ok flight… three across seating would have made for a tight right but no one had booked the middle seats on either flight so my neighbor and I had plenty of elbow room.
I had been told to take mass transit to the end of the line and Jim, my benefactor and the guy giving me the truck, would pick me up. Due to my advanced age and inability to walk more than 100' without a break, I chose to grab a cab.
The outside temp was about 80F but the Prius-wielding Nigerian driver had the windows rolled up and the a/c was non-functional. But he gladly unlocked my window so I could lower the glass and get some breeze.
The $83.00 cab ride was worth it not only from a fat, old partially dilapidated guy's point of view but also from the perspective of a former race car driver. I never thought I'd ever see a Prius be able to change five lanes of traffic in about 300' while traveling 85 mph and still manage to slide between two Kenworth gasoline tanker trucks and still make the off ramp without anyone dying.
This guy needs to be on America's Got Talent or get a job with Joey's Chitwood's Hell Driver's…
So I get to Rosemead and meet Jim… a good guy. We jump in his cluttered but capable Grand marquis and head to meet my 'new' F350.
His friend Tony is working on the truck when we get there. Stuffed under a trellis loaded with vines, and not-so-convienently jammed between two lemon trees, the truck sits there dirty, dusty and very sad looking. Talking to Tony I find that the old Ford hasn't moved in ten years… not the three to five I had been told. No big deal. My mind conjures up thoughts of two inches of varnish in the fuel tanks and multiple fuel filter changes on the trip home.
I pitch in to help with whatever is needed but we are short a few parts so Jim and I make our way to the local pick-a-part yard. We each pay $2.00 admission and start to wander thru the yard. We find the three small parts we need… fuel cap, brake reservoir cap and a fuel pump relay. $18.00 total which I didn't think was much of a deal.
We head back to the scene of the crime…
After installing the fuel pump relay we find we still don't have any fuel. It's now 8:00PM so we call it a day.
Wednesday I beg out of another day at the junkyard to save my back some pain and discomfort. Tony and Jim return from Ontario with the right parts and install the relay. Jim comes to the motel to pick me up.
The truck now runs but has a major water leak from one frost plug located behind the right side motor mount. Tony is done working on this truck… he has a building project that needs his attention. And i don't have enough tools with me to do it so we take a ride over to a local shop to get it done on Thursday. the four mile trip is done on six nearly flat tires and with brakes that don't work very well and a transmission that isn't shifting with any precision.
I make it there without any injuries.
Thursday the shop owner get's busy… I told him to look at the brakes. No linings left on the front pads… rear shoes are oil soaked on the left and brake fluid soaked on the right. I tell him to fix 'em…
After the brakes are done, and the now TWO frost plugs are replaced the truck starts but soon dies… both fuel pumps are toast. It's now 5:30 and the day is done… back to Motel 6.
Friday AM Santos, the shop owner, tracks down a pump (with gas gauge) after two hours of looking. It's gets to the shop at 10 AM or so… the truck is running at 1 PM. We let it run for about 30 minutes. the water temp and oil pressure gauges are inop. But the engine does not overheat nor does it rattle… we figure all is well. I take off @ 2PM,make a quick pit stop at Walgreen's for some Aleve and ice, and i hit the road at 2:30PM.
Five exits down the 10 freeway and a CHP pulls me over for not wearing a seat belt.
He asks for my license, registration and insurance card. I tell him I have one out of three.
I explain… I can't get a CA temp tag because I live out of state. I can't get a WI tag because they need to verify the VIN# before issuing a tag.
I couldn't get a fax from my insurance agent because Santos fax doesn't work.
He writes me up for the seatbelt deal and no registration and tell's me to tell my story to the judge… adios and he leaves.
I lower the tail gate so it's harder to see the expired tags (2003) and put 'er in the wind.
500 miles later I'm in a small town in Utah and take a two hour nap in the back seat. The morning sun wakes me up and I set out to find a tire shop that can balance the front wheels.
I find that shop, get the work done in a half hour, fill the front tank and buy a new right side tailgate cable.
I hit the gas…. My route takes me north on I-15, over Parley's Summit, across I-80 to Rawlins, WY, up US 287 and WY 220 to Casper. Then I grab I-25 south to US 20 thru Lusk, WY and into NE.
I lay my head down again in western Nebraska about 4 AM Sunday morning. I'm tired…
Two hours later "Old Sol" (the sun) gets me outta bed and I head across NE, up thru a short section of The Badlands then thru Kadoka to catch I-90 east.
I hit the interstate at 9 AM and put the hammer down… that's if 62 mph is 'hammer down' (wheel balance didn't work!).
54 hours and 2185 miles after leaving Rosemead, CA I pull into my driveway tired and happy to be home. I felt happy to make that run by myself like I did for 40 years, on and off, when I was a trucker. Came all the way home without looking at a map… or a God forsaken GPS.
While I didn't take a lot of truck pix, here's a few shots of the scenery of the American west… what an absolutely amazing country we live in.
God Bless America.