Not Getting Away From It All

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
not getting away from it all

The reason there was no Curbside Classic last Tuesday was this: our camping trip to the coast was unexpectedly extended. We take our ’77 Dodge Chinook on deserted US Forest Service roads, and find hidden camping spots miles away from the nearest person, camp ground, and cell phone coverage. Depending on the mood, we can enjoy the dead quiet, or play the Dead as loud as we like. There is a certain risk to these back road jaunts, and I always calculate how many miles I would have to walk in case Old Faithful died unexpectedly. Folks perish regularly on these back roads, mainly in the winter. On Tuesday morning, having spent a serene night at the Cummins Creek trailhead, the “Hamtramck Hummingbird” starter sang and sang, but there wasn’t even the faintest sign of an explosion. Had be an ignition problem; the 360 always starts instantly, even if it doesn’t always keep running on a cool morning. Fortunately, this time we were a short jaunt from the highway. “I’ll just hitch hike to Florence, pick up an electronic ignition module, and be back in a jiffy”. My wife said “call a tow truck”. You already know who was right.

But luck seemed to be on my side at first. A young couple picked me up, took me to the NAPA, and even drove me right back to the camper. I was back in time for lunch! And the NAPA counter guys were all sure it had to be the ignition module ($73), but I decided to grab a coil ($22) just to play it safe. I slapped them both in, and…nothing.

For the second time, I made the three mile trek to the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center where there was cell coverage and a phone book (the first time to confirm the parts were available). This time it was for a tow. It was no joke getting the camper on the truck in the little parking area; we had to push the Chinook back so the truck could get in front of it. And then he had to turn around. Half way to town he remembered the tunnel on HW1, and began to panic whether we would clear it (he was new on the job). He pulled over while I ran ahead to the tunnel entrance and spotted him.

Arrived at the shop ten minutes to five. The mechanic says something about a little ceramic piece that goes on the old Dodges, but it will have to wait until the morning. It was a pleasant night in his parking lot.

After breakfast, the mechanic shows up, but can’t find what he’s looking for. Runs to get an old-timer who shows him where it’s well hidden in the very crowded firewall, right behind the master cylinder. A hunk of ceramic with a coiled wire in the back of it, that looks like it came out of a hundred year-old appliance: the ballast resistor ($11). The good old seventies, where early high-tech meets steam punk. I’m going to buy and carry an extra, to go along with the ignition module and coil that I yanked out. Be prepared! Of course, the next time it’ll be something different. Total towing and repair bill: $164. Campground fees: $0.

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  • H Man H Man on Aug 24, 2010

    Just drove up the coast from Bandon to Portland yesterday and passed right by the area. Windy as hell, but very nice otherwise. I haven't traveled many of the forest roads in that area, but have pretty much exhausted Lane county by this point. The region around Horton/Triangle Lake is probably my favorite. BTW, I noticed numerous "Electric Vehicle Plug-In Stations" in quite a few coastal towns. I had no idea these were so common. Did you happen to notice any?

  • Tiredoldmechanic Tiredoldmechanic on Aug 24, 2010

    Ah the good old days. Many moons ago I was the road service mechanic for a government agency in northern British Columbia. They had lots of domestic pickups and bought whatever was cheapest at bid time. I soon learned to carry a supply of mopar ballast resistors, GM HEI ignition modules, Ford ignition switches and headlight switches, various pickup coils and voltage regulators and some other bits related to keeping Detriot Diesel engines running. Some of that junk is still in my toolbox. I could almost always diagnose the problem over the phone or 2 way radio. Computers and electronics have done a lot of great things for modern vehicles, but diagnosis by the side of the road isn't one of them. Do you play the grateful dead on an 8 track by the way?

  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.
  • Wjtinfwb Always liked these MN12 cars and the subsequent Lincoln variant. But Ford, apparently strapped for resources or cash, introduced these half-baked. Very sophisticated chassis and styling, let down but antiquated old pushrod engines and cheap interiors. The 4.6L Modular V8 helped a bit, no faster than the 5.0 but extremely smooth and quiet. The interior came next, nicer wrap-around dash, airbags instead of the mouse belts and refined exterior styling. The Supercharged 3.8L V6 was potent, but kind of crude and had an appetite for head gaskets early on. Most were bolted to the AOD automatic, a sturdy but slow shifting gearbox made much better with electronic controls in the later days. Nice cars that in the right color, evoked the 6 series BMW, at least the Thunderbird did. Could have been great cars and maybe should have been a swoopy CLS style sedan. Pretty hard to find a decent one these days.