I was looking for an adventure, and I got one! Granted, not the one I wanted, but an adventure still. This is the first opportunity I’ve had the time and mental capacity to write a blog entry, so it’s time to get as man of the details down as I can before they fade.
March 12th, 2017: Leave Breckenridge and start the journey.
It was a dark and stormy night…
Or this version: It was a dark, bone-bitingly-cold, early morning, with an approaching storm of doom when Paul and I left Breck. We took off before 6am to avoid a snowstorm that was throwing weather advisories all over the place. By my calculations, if we left at 6am, and headed due south as fast as we could, we’d only hit the leading edge of the storm. Turns out I was correct. We left at about 5:45am, in 14° degree weather, with high winds, and got out as fast as we could. Before the sun came up, the temperature dropped some more, down to 10° at one point. We hit the leading edge of the storm around 8am, but it was never enough of an issue to stop us.
We had either headwinds or cross winds all day, and fuel mileage suffered as a result. We were averaging 12-13mpg with the winter-blend fuel, highway speed (68-70 mph), and poor wind conditions.
March 13th, 2017: Flyin’ Miata
We once again take off early in hopes of making it to a quick side trip, Flyin’ Miata in Palisade, CO. Paul owns a Miata and is looking at doing some upgrades, and the parts would likely be purchased from these guys. They had cars in various states, and some of the more highly modified had V8 engines in them. Personally, I prefer having a real roof, but there are others that feel differently.
During our travels today, I noticed the oil temperature getting higher than I’d like. Normally, when driving around previously, it had always stayed in the 202-204° (F) range. Now it was getting up to 215°+. I did some research, and I found everyone was talking about the difference between the oil temperature and the coolant temperature, but not the actual maximum recommended oil temperature, other than one suggestion that the engine may de-throttle once the oil hits 253° F. It seemed that anything much over 240° and the oil would start to break down. I’m not terribly happy about this situation, but there’s nothing pressing, yet. Incidentily, the mileage towards the end of the day was getting much better, helped by the lessened winds and the summer-blend of fuel.
March 14th, 2017: Oil Cooler
Today the oil cooler really gave up on us. In yesterday’s research, it seemed that the difference between the oil temp and the coolant temp should be around 15°. Once it stays above a 25° differential, the computer will throw a check engine light. Less than an hour into our journey today, a wrench icon appeared on the dash as the oil hit 224° and the coolant was still sub-200°. We reduced speed to 55mph and limped it into Vegas. Even at 55, the oil temperature was still in a higher-than-comfortable range. MPG ratings were through the roof though, improving from 12.3 to 17.3 thanks to favorable wind conditions, summer fuel, and driving 55mph.
The previous owner had “fully bulletproofed” the Great White Knight, which is why I paid the premium for it. Well, he thought he had bullet proofed it, but he actually paid someone to put in a bunch of parts that were basically no better (and some worse than) the Ford OEM parts. Of course, now I know this because I am in the situation where my oil is overheating. Had I known it before purchasing the truck, I obviously wouldn’t have purchased it.
Personally, I think the previous owner sunk a bunch of money into the truck, and when it started giving him trouble, he sold it off as quickly as he could while boasting that it was “fully bulletproofed”, all the while knowing that it had issues. It’s people like these that give used car salesmen the worst trustworthiness ratings of any possible profession.
The oil coolers that were originally installed in these trucks is basically a heat exchanger between the oil and the coolant. It works fine for a while, but those exchangers get clogged up after so-many miles and are no longer effective. The proper Bullet Proof way to handle the situation is to remove that part and install a whole new additional radiator exclusively for the oil. That also relieves the burden of cooling the oil from the coolant so it can more effectively cool the other components. Of course all of that new hardware doesn’t come cheap, and just this part of the upgrade comes in at $2,000 in parts.
After calling around to a few shops, I find one that is able to juggle some of their other customers around to get me in. I make an appointment, and check into the hotel.
When we get to the hotel, Paul’s reservation tacks on an additional $60-something in “reservation fees”, and my reservation isn’t even found at all. We both end up spending more than planned, which is just a lovely way to end the evening.
On a complete side note to all of the misadventures above, the views of the scenery between Denver and Vegas is amazing and surreal at times. Unfortunately, there are few shots that turn out when taken from an iPhone on the road.
March 15th: Truck & Camper examinations
The repair place that agreed to take the White Knight opens at 7:30am, so that’s when we arrive. John, the owner of the shop, examines my truck, the situation, and is very informative. He gives options and explains everything that is going on. It’s at this point that we learn that not only was a cheap (basically OEM replacement, but not even that good) oil cooler was put in, but also extremely cheap (less than Ford cost) head gaskets were put in. It’s a miracle they’ve lasted this long. The head gaskets need to be replaced too. In fact, the only part of the previous owner’s “bullet proofing” that can be re-used is the ARP studs. Everything else was pretty much worthless.
The quote for doing all of the repairs plus the hardware upgrades comes in at ~$6,500. For a full bulletproofing, this number is not expected, but it is beyond frustrating when I just bought a truck that was supposedly already bulletproofed. I’m beyond irritated.
Timing is also getting thrown way off here as well. To do the full set of repairs, it’s going to take a week. I was only supposed to spend two nights in Vegas. They said that they wouldn’t actually start on my truck until the next morning, so I could use it to hop around town a bit during the day. That was really helpful. Driving around town doesn’t put enough load on the engine to really heat the oil that much, so there were no worries about doing any additional damage there.
After pondering options and choices for about an hour, it’s time to head over to the RV dealer to check out the camper. Yep, that’s the whole reason I came to Vegas, and I have no idea if I’m going to go through with that or not.
The camper is close to how it was represented online. There’s only two major discrepancies: the water heater is a basic propane-only unit with a manual lighting mechanism and there’s some water damage in the exterior floor on passenger-side rear.
After perhaps our best meal to date for the trip (a chinese buffet with pretty decent sushi), I made the decision to cancel the camper purchase. Too many expenses and complications to deal with right now. Hearing about the bill for the truck repairs and the frustration that’s caused, I was just not in the mood to deal with a camper that wasn’t perfect. I tell them it’s not going to happen and have them refund my credit card for the deposit I initially placed on the unit.
Due to the timing of the trip being all screwed up, I wasn’t going to be able to make Paul’s flight out of Dallas on the 25th, and he went ahead and booked a plane ticket home from Vegas for the next morning. If I didn’t have to be stuck in Vegas, I wouldn’t be either.
I then went to check out an extended-stay hotel place which had an ad online for a 1-bedroom, 1-week special. Since I was going to be in town a week or so, it seemed like a much better idea than remaining in a casino-hotel. The general location (not far from the shop, across the street from a couple fast-food places and gas stations) seemed pretty good, the lobby area was set up well enough, and the process of getting signed up for a one week stay was pretty easy.
Next stop was the bank to cancel out the cashiers check that was previously made out the RV dealer. That went without incident. Nice to have the funds back in the account as they’re about to leave again in a couple days.
Now that the path forward was set (repair truck, skip camper), my stress levels were finally alleviated. I could breathe again.
Paul and I took the monorail from our hotel (the Westgate) to the strip and spent a couple hours walking the strip. Since it was his last night in Vegas, that seemed to be the most appropriate thing to do.
March 16th, 2017: Settling in
Paul took a shuttle the airport early in the morning, as planned, and so far as I know it all went well. I slept in ’til 6:30am, then got up and took care of morning stuff before putting in a couple hours of work. Checked out of the hotel and took an Uber over to Siena Suites at around 11am, knowing full well that check-in wasn’t until 3pm.
When I arrived, a room fitting what I had signed up for was available, so I got some key-cards and lugged my cargo off to the room. After a few tries of having the keys not work, a man opened the door and said, “who are you?”. We were both a bit surprised, but he was very friendly.
Somehow the front desk didn’t quite realize that the unit they had sent me to was already in use. That triggered a warning flag in my head. They assigned me another room, and this time the key-card worked, and there was nobody in the unit.
I have a “1 bedroom” as they call it, which is very much like an apartment. It has two large room areas, one is the living room and kitchen, the other is the bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen has all the major appliances, but not a single shred of anything to use with them such as plates, bowls, silverware, pots and pans, or anything of the sort. The living room has a couch, which I really appreciate, and the bedroom is set up with two double beds. The bathroom has bathroom stuff.
In each of the major rooms, there’s a hotel-style air conditioner unit. The unit in the living room works fine, but the bedroom unit wouldn’t turn on or respond at all. I checked the obvious things like plugging in the power cord (it was disconnected) and hitting the reset on the cord, all to no avail. I called the office at 11:30, and let them know about the problem.
A little after noon when my appetite was winning over my desire to wait for the maintenance technician, I unloaded my backpack and headed out to see what I could find in terms of groceries. I figured at minimum I’d like to get some paper plates and bowls, plastic silverware, milk & cereal, and whatever other low-preparation food I could come across. A local Walgreens fit the bill and outfitted me with those items.
I got back to the unit, had lunch, put in some more time at work, and called the front desk again to remind them that I was still waiting on getting the bedroom A/C fixed. About an hour later (around 5pm), a technician showed up, removed the front panel of the unit, and flipped a hidden switch inside, and it fired right up.
The week or so: Waiting
Now that things have settled down, I’m pretty much not going anywhere for about a week. I don’t have a vehicle, so if I want to travel anywhere beyond walking distance, it’s pretty much going to be another Uber fare. I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on work, and I’m going to take advantage of that as much as I can.
My current logistical plan is to pick up the truck the moment it’s done, head down to Quartzsite, grab the trailer, and zoom off to Texas. Depending on when the truck is done, I should arrive in Tyler either on time, or up to a day late.