Saturday, July 07, 2007

On the road back

After lots of exciting travel, we reached the end of Route 66 yesterday. We walked around Santa Monica Pier for an hour or so and then drove up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway towards Earl's house. There are parking spaces along the road at some points where people can pull off to visit the beach or surf. We stopped at one and climbed down the rocks to the beach. I had never seen surfers in real life before -- it was really neat to watch. We walked on the sand and waded in the water, and I called my dad to tell him that I was in the Pacific Ocean. (I think he's enjoying hearing about my trip because he took a similar trip with my mom in 1971 in their '67 VW Bus. He has a story from several of the places we've stopped.)

We continued on to the tiny town of Ballard and Earl and Syd's house, which is adorable -- Syd is so creative. After looking at Earl's VW collection and inspecting the travel trailer he insists is his next project, we drove into Solvang and ate at a Danish place. My dinner included cucumber salad and red cabbage, two of my favorite Czech foods from childhood.

This morning as we were leaving the hotel in Lompoc, John pulled up next to us and tried to clear Phoebe's check engine light. The cable between the car and the computer wasn't working, so we drove down to Auto Zone with John and with Rich and Kathie, who happen to live in Lompoc. The machine there read Phoebe's code as P0171, which is a somewhat generic code that may indicate a loose gas cap (which I'm sure is not the problem, as I always tighten it four clicks or more), a vacuum hose, or many other things. John pulled my engine cover off and spotted the worn vacuum hose right away. Auto Zone didn't have any 3.5 mm hoses, but John had some silicone hose in his tool box. It took him all of two minutes to replace it, and Phoebe ran better right away. (Mark G., you were right.) Her light hasn't come back on yet, so I hope everything is fixed now.

I should mention again how wonderful John has been. He not only changed my vacuum hose, changed my flat tire (in 107-degree heat), and replaced my mass air flow sensor, but also worked for an hour and a half in very hot weather to get Earl's car back on the road yesterday after a similar hose problem that ended up melting parts of the spark plugs. I believe he also helped change Rich and Kathie's fuel pump at the VW dealer in the Albuquerque heat. Without John, many of us would still be sitting by the side of the road waiting for AAA and trying to figure out how to find a competent mechanic in a strange town.

Tonight we're in Kingman, AZ. Our goal is to make it to Santa Rosa, NM, tomorrow evening in order to be home on Tuesday at a reasonable hour. We should be able to get on the road earlier tomorrow morning (the vacuum hose took a little time this morning), and the drive will all be on I-40, so we won't have to worry about California traffic. Off to the hot tub....

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