The last three months at home were a relaxing rest from our 2004 travels (Wanderungs 5, 6, and 7 plus side trips to see Judson and Sarah as well as a week long jaunt to Williamsburg with Lois). I had enough time to prepare the cars for their annual state inspections, which might seem unnecessary for most folks but is something that becomes more important the older a car gets. With the Tundra the inspection was, in fact, a non-issue, but for the 1994 Dodge Spirit and the 1986 Pontiac Trans Am (affectionately called "The Monster") the inspections can entail a lot of preparatory work.
In this case the Spirit only required an oil change and a new brake light bulb, which was pretty trivial, but the Monster was another matter. Its heater was leaking coolant on the floor of the passenger's side and a leaking valve cover gasket was dripping oil on the manifold that smoldered and sent tendrils of smoke wafting from under the hood. I expected that neither stepping into a puddle of ethylene glycol nor opening the hood and seeing billows of smoke would impress the inspector very much, so I spent a couple of days of Quality Time ripping out the dashboard to replace the heater and untangling the maze of hoses under the hood to get at the valve cover gasket.
The work was successful and I'm sure that the lack of glycol fumes in the passenger compartment and smoke from an under hood fire helped the Monster pass the safety inspection, but it wasn't enough. The Monster still failed its emission inspections, and I do mean badly. That required a trip to the Pontiac dealer and an $800 repair bill for a new catalytic converter, oxygen sensor, and the vacuum-switching valve I broke when replacing the water pump a couple of years back. The cost was painful, but finally I had a drivable car (Monika consistently refuses to drive it) and could use it for driving us around town, recouping some of that investment.
As time allowed, I also indulged in some creative woodworking to make things for the trailer. Traveling with the Tin Blimp had shown a number of things that I needed to make and I could most easily fashion them out of wood: better wheel chocks to stop for-and-aft wriggling when parked, an adjustable height block to put beneath the hitch jack, block pyramids for each of the corner stabilizers, and a 5-foot ramp to set on our over-sized Lego blocks for the side-to-side leveling. So what with one thing and another, we kept ourselves busy enough that we didn't notice the time passing and suddenly the holiday season crept up on us.
Despite the rather hurried Christmas shopping that unwitting procrastination caused us, we particularly enjoyed the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It was wonderful to have Judson, Sarah, and Martin home for each holiday, plus celebrations with Sarah's parents and sister Loren. For me the main focus of any holiday is the family. Family is, after all, one of those things that money can't buy, altho in Japan you can rent them for a day or two. But after everyone had left I became, once again, restless with Wanderlust and we prepared to set out on a winter trip.
That turned out to be a rather lengthy process involving the purchase of $200 of food and beverages, stocking the trailer, packing our clothes, and at the very last jockeying the trailer out of the driveway, which was when I found out that the new ramp I had made was not strong enough-I heard the snap, crackle, and pop as I pulled the trailer out over the ramp, which at that point became so much firewood. But in the end I did get the trailer out onto the street with a minimum of scraping and bumping.
After a final pass of cleaning the garage and re-arranging all the clutter so that I had one automobile-shaped space in the middle, I pulled the Monster into the garage, avoiding the storage shelves to the left, the workbenches to the right, and the garbage can, Shopsmith, and associated junk directly in front. The Monster probably felt relieved to be back where it had spent much of the last several years and away from the possibilities of rain showers that leaked thru its T-top. To make the house look at least partially inhabited, we left the Spirit in the driveway. It was a lot smaller then the Great White Trailer and the green kind of blended in with the dormant grass and left the driveway looking, to my eyes, rather empty but I'm sure the neighbors appreciated the change!
So we got off the next morning about 8:30 and drove leisurely south on Interstate 85 thru North Carolina in the direction of Atlanta, Georgia. We tried to find a public campground, but after about 10 miles of wandering around in the boondocks on twisty, narrow, 2-lane roads without any shoulders, we gave up, backtracked to the interstate, and continued on to Charlotte where we put up in a hotel for the night.Copyright 2005 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt