We got settled in our hotel room in Alamogordo, NM plenty late and planned to shoot at White Sands the following morning. Getting sunrise or “golden hour” shots would’ve been great. But the park didn’t open until 7am, or after both of those events. It takes about 45 minutes to load the car and trailer each morning. Not wanting to delay our arrival at White Sands, we left without packing the car and visited to a car wash so that the photos would be pretty. 🙂 Then, it was off to the park. After shooting photos, we went back to the room, packed the car, and hit the road to head west. Of course, we had to stop at a Starbucks to get a New Mexico “Been There” mug. 😉
Along the way to Arizona, we realized that we would drive past the “Very Large Array,” which is a series of radio telescopes near Socorro, NM. They’ve been featured in motion pictures, such as “Contact,” and are often associated with SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. The array consists of 27 dishes in a “Y” configuration (plus one that’s in a maintenance status). They are positioned on railroad tracks so that they can be moved into wide or tight patterns, depending on what the operators are scanning. Of course, the visitor center was closed. Our hope was to get close enough to one antenna to get a photo. We were successful! I could add one to my ham radio suite after reinforcing the roof and a spring swap to support ~230 tons! 😉
We continued west into the night until we reached our next stop in Kingman, AZ. Kingman is a cool place to visit. Of the different Route 66 attractions along our journey, this was the one that felt the most authentic and preserved. Kingman is proud of its service members. I didn’t get any photos, but the lamp posts have images of current active duty service members from all branches who are from Kingman. There’s also a memorial park for Kingman residents who died while serving our country. Kingman was cool and I would have loved to stay longer. But we needed to get to Fresno to meet our daughter at the airport. I highly recommend Kingman as a stopover for anyone who’s touring Route 66! I’m sure we missed a lot.
We joined “the club” as we continued west, encountered a mountain climb, and wound up on the side of the road. The roadside stop was brief. We were climbing a mountain pass and I probably should have been in a lower gear. We had experienced a check engine light a day or two earlier, also while in a climb at only 2500 rpm. However, this time the EPC came on, the Check Engine Lamp (CEL) was flashing, and the car’s behavior was terrible. I was certain that I could restart the car and drive gently. But we were on a dark, twisty road. I don’t know what happens with modern key-start cars, but when I push the START/STOP button to turn off the engine, the lights go out, too. That was no good on that road. I found a place to pull over and restarted the car there. From there, I decided to stay in a lower gear with the trailer in the mountains. I pulled codes with my OBDEleven app and found cylinder #3 misfire and “hide cylinder” DTCs. I cleared the codes and continued west.
We entered California, where the speed limit for trailers is 55 mph. I kept the car in fourth gear to reduce the load on the engine and to avoid more misfires on cylinder #3. That tactic worked! Each time I had visited CA in the past, I was told “You have to get an In-N-Out Burger!” I don’t recall if they were nearby when I was stationed in Alameda nearly 20 years ago. I never saw one. But they seem to be the rage now. When my brother and I visited CA two months ago, the dining rooms were closed and the drive-thru lines were stagnant, likely with a 30-minute wait for service. Sorry – NO BURGER is worth that! But I hadn’t written-off In-N-Out yet. There was one in Barstow, CA and the line was short enough for me to tolerate. We had meals in about 10 minutes. THAT’S BETTER! My assessment? It’s a good burger; not worth a 30-minute wait, but very good for 10 minutes. 😉 See more details in this video.
Next, we began our assault on Tehachapi Pass, home to over 4000 wind turbines. I didn’t think to get any still images. But I hope to feature some video footage when I publish the video from that approach. We stopped in Tehachapi for fuel; it was going to be 91 AKI for a while. Our CEL continued to nag me. I began to make a plan to visit a Volkswagen dealer for new ignition coils. We arrived in my mother’s town after nightfall, unloaded the car and trailer at the hotel, and then drove the Fresno to get our daughter from the airport. Afterwards, we dropped the trailer at my aunt’s house so that we could have a smaller footprint for our local travel.
My wife is collecting Starbucks “Been There” mugs from each state. So, we made a couple of wild detours along the way to get mugs from as many states as we could, while staying somewhat close to an efficient route. In some cases, we just barely entered a state to claim our mug, as well as a painted state on my “States Visited” map, shown here. The colors are grouped by voyage. Translated, Virginia (red) is the “home state.” Obviously, the car has been there. 😉 My first road trip, shown in light blue, was to drive Tail of the Dragon in 2017. At some point, I drove to Maryland and Delaware to buy some wheels (green). Our Thanksgiving trip to St Louis is in orange, a trip to Pennsylvania to buy more wheels is in yellow, our fast-n-furious trip it New England is purple, and then there were separate trips to South Carolina (dark green) and Georgia (mustard). The coast-to-coast trip is mint green. And now you understand my map. 😉
I had hoped that the car might drive normally once the trailer was uncoupled. No such luck! The extra load of the trailer had nothing to do with whatever was going on with the car. We had planned to visit Sequoia National Park in the morning and then attend my mother’s memorial service in the afternoon. But that changed to a morning dealer visit for ignition coils instead. Obviously, I’d make the memorial service, even if I had to steal a car. 😉 I’ll share about the dealer visit in the next entry.
Time for Rest,