The Truth About Cars » Tall Winter Tales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 03:28:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Tall Winter Tales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com MEMOIRS OF AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOP OWNER: Tall Winter Tales – Extreme Weekend Banzai Road Test / Rally—Part Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-ownertall-winter-tales-extreme-weekend-banzai-road-test-rally-part-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-ownertall-winter-tales-extreme-weekend-banzai-road-test-rally-part-four/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 14:45:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478108

We rejoin our tale of adventure aboard what was proving itself to be a very worthy foul-weather road tripping first-gen Toyota van. It took us something like twenty-four blizzard-hampered hours non-stop to make it to our Golden CO destination, from the South Bay LA departure. The only casualty inflicted was committed against our recently purchased cable “chains”.

Counting our blessings, we put in for the night at what had to be the last “old-school” motel in what appeared to be a rapidly modernizing town. We would tackle the acquisition and loading of our intended cargo—a late-model Suzuki superbike—on the morrow.

The new day dawned clear, sunny, and very cold—as is typical in the aftermath of mountain snowstorms. Fortunately, things were warming up nicely in Golden, as we headed to our cargo rendezvous.

Upon more direct questioning—and in keeping with his previously expounded-on modus operandi —I learned that my friend and cohort, “The Mint” was not entirely sure about the fit our “One-Liter Gixxer” would enjoy there, in the back of the Van. He was confident that, as he had transported similar superbikes in first-gen Toyota Vans before, this one should be no problem.

As we ran the bike up the ramp and sized things up, we realized that maybe it was going to be some kind of a problem, after all.

With a little strategy and deft use of a few simple hand tools, however, we had removed the offending bits on the bike, and had it properly secured.

One load off our minds and into the Van!

With clear weather—albeit with wet and potentially icy road conditions ahead—and a more properly ballasted vehicle, we set out for what promised to be an easier return trip.

As we headed toward the Eisenhower Tunnel, we were again noticing what we perceived to be the rather high rate of speed the general westbound traffic was moving at. I mean, at this point—and notwithstanding the prevailing sunshine—temperatures in the Vail Pass had to be hovering at around ZERO, if not lower, and we had a steady headwind of around thirty mph—with gusts that had to be in the fifties. The roads had obviously been salted, as there was not a trace of snow or ice on them; but with conditions like what we were experiencing, we couldn’t help but think that there had to be the dreaded “black ice” awaiting us all at some point.

Apparently, that point was a small stretch of the I-70, just east of Glenwood Springs (if memory serves), where the route passes through a gap narrow enough to necessitate running the westbound traffic above the eastbound traffic—not side by side, as is the case with pretty much the rest of the route.

On our approach to this section, our rapid progress ground to a halt about a hundred yards or so from a small tunnel adjacent to an electric power substation.

We knew there was an accident, but had no idea it’s magnitude.

After something like an hour-and-a-half passed, we got a better idea as we saw large helicopters—of the heavy equipment-moving variety—beginning to work the area! We knew we were in for an extended stay.

I decided to go out and investigate.

Understanding the prevailing conditions, I figured that with the winter gear I had in my possession, surely a two hundred yard round trip taken at a brisk walking pace would be no problem.

About fifty yards into this sortie, I realized that I was, in fact, very seriously gear challenged, and if I continued, I might wind up meeting the same fate as the Scott Expedition. I mean, it was cold beyond belief—far surpassing anything I’d ever experienced from several winters living in the northeastern United States, and winter excursions in the Sierra Nevada backcountry. Yikes!

I made it back to the Van none too soon; now convinced that the only thing to do was to wait patiently and stay warm by frequently starting the Van’s engine and running the heater until the interior temperature reached tolerable level.

In all, we wound up sitting in place on that section of the Interstate for about four hours, before traffic got rolling—and once again, as on the eastbound run, at a more subdued pace. I guess some folks need a more graphic demonstration of cause-and-effect before they’ll effect a change of behavior.

We again counted our blessings that we weren’t just a little farther up the road when the carnage went down.

And we cursed the fact that we weren’t yet a little farther up the road than that—as we would have missed the entire “show” altogether.

It turned out that the source of the problem was a jackknifed truck that wound up with its cab hanging off the westbound level, threatening the eastbound traffic underneath. That explained the helicopters and the lengthy delay.

In the end, we only beat out eastbound time by a couple of hours! I’m happy to report that there were no other problems to speak of, though—save for the fact that the Van was stolen about a week later, from in front of The Mint’s townhome!

When recovered, naturally one of the things missing was the stereo head unit—and Disc One of my recently purchased DEVO Anthology (which I forgot to remove upon return) along with it!

The Mint was happy he’d at least unloaded the ‘Zook before the theft.

It would sure have been ironic—to say the least—if he HADN’T!

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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MEMOIRS OF AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOP OWNER: Tall Winter Tales – Extreme Weekend Banzai Road Test / Rally—Part Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-tall-winter-tales-extreme-weekend-banzai-road-test-rally-part-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/memoirs-of-an-independent-repair-shop-owner-tall-winter-tales-extreme-weekend-banzai-road-test-rally-part-three/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 16:16:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476410 We rejoin our tale of high adventure—en route to Golden, CO, for the purpose of taking delivery of a slightly used superbike—aboard a newly acquired and undertested first-gen Toyota Van. Having passed it’s first serious test—the midnight-to-dawn segment through southwestern Utah in a driving snowstorm (including a near-miss involving a concrete center divider) on the I-70—we set our sights on Grand Junction, CO and the Vail Pass.

Having made our descent to the high plains east of Moab, The Mint and I now had time to reflect on both my performance behind the wheel, and that of our rapidly appreciating and Bodaciously Beaten Van. We had to conclude that the proof was in the proverbial pudding in both cases: aside from the occasional stop to clear snow and ice accumulation from the wheel wells—checking on the integrity of the cable chains on the rear—our progress was confident and rapid, considering conditions.

I had to declare that the whole dynamic of keeping the mass in motion from the upright driving position perched just above the left front wheel, was really something completely different than what I had ever previously experienced. And quite a kick in the seat—very literally, when wheel well ice accumulation reached critical mass—at that!

Now, the real issue became managing our cable chain life—as the segment across the high plains to Grand Junction wasn’t going to be over completely snow-packed road. We figured that it’d be snowing up the Vail Pass, and we didn’t want to shred our only set of cables before we got there.

We didn’t know how correct that assessment was until we got back into blizzard conditions at the beginning of the climb up The Pass.

We had seen a couple of vehicles that had spun off the road coming into Grand Junction, but the frequency of these sightings got to the point where we flat-out lost count as we proceeded with the ascent. Although we were not exactly playing it tight-on-the-bottle conservatively, we were surprised at the generally borderline-frantic pace of our fellow motorists, including—and maybe especially considering—the Big Rig jockeys. All of these folks must have felt some measure of invincibility behind their respective steering wheels, to be pushing the limits as they were. Many of them—again including the truckers—were not running chains on vehicles that we could verify as not in possession of any kind of All or Four Wheel Drive system!

The attrition rate was impressive!

We began to be concerned that the local Highway Patrol might at any point close The Pass, thus scuttling our non-stop strategy.

As far as it went, though, was the enabling of warning signs mandating the installation of chains on Big Rigs and Two-Wheel-Drive vehicles.

Fortunately, ours were still intact at this point; and with the increase in traffic volume, and all of the surrounding vehicle carnage serving as a warning to the previously frantic, it seemed unlikely that we were going to run afoul of the maximum speed warning for our cables.

Just as we were considering this while passing by the Breckinridge Ski Area, a loud whack from the rear, followed by a rhythmic slapping, confirmed what we had just been denying:

Our cables were finished, before we were with their use!

There was nothing to do other than pull over and finish the removal job that centrifugal force had initiated.

We rejoined the traffic fray—now reduced to a snail’s pace—chainless, but thankful that there was enough grip on significantly colder snow, so as not to require their necessity.

When we made it to the Eisenhower Tunnel without incident, we knew we had passed through the worst of it, for the day. With the exception of a couple of still frantic, and soon to be self-neutralized urban Suburban drivers, we continued to Golden unthreatened, otherwise intact, and fairly close to on-time, all considered!

We’ll consider the acquisition of our intended cargo, and the less-than-uneventful trek back to LA in Part Four, next week.

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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