Well, folks, it's been a while since I checked in. And life's been busy for that while. I figure I ought to do some updating.
So, in the last month or so, I finished up my time in Provo, drove 2000 miles to Texas, proposed to Kate, drove 2000 more miles to Michigan, and started grad school.
That's a lot to cover, but I'm sure you'll either slog through it or you won't. One of those.
I finished fixing Lenny, thanks mostly to Jason Lillrose. I'm sure he doesn't read this blog, so I can publicly thank him without him getting mad. I was really worried Lenny wouldn't make it. After months of taking up space in the garage, Lenny got new heart valves and I took him out for a drive. We went to Salt Lake and back to make sure that he could take the strain of highway driving.
Lenny got a clean bill of health so I packed him up with all my stuff and got ready to go. I was surprised that everything I own fit in a Ford Taurus, but I guess I just don't have that much stuff.
I drove down through Southern Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, passing really close to the 4 corners. The highways were pretty good and I made really good time. There was a long stretch in Colorado with 250 miles of nothing. I mean nothing. No towns, no houses, nothing. There was one thing in all that nothing: a single town about 100 miles in with a single stoplight. Lenny died at that stoplight. It was a miracle. Not only did he die at the only place in hundreds of miles with cell reception, but he also died right across from a restaurant, so it was the only place in hundreds of miles with air conditioning.
I pulled into the restaurant parking lot (I had to push it into a parking spot), called Jason, and had went inside for a burger while he figured it out (he had access to Google so he got to do the hard parts for me). We discussed various possibilities, and one of them involved just letting everything cool down. After the burger, I went out and tried Lenny. He started up and everything was hunky-dorey.
I made it to Jason's brother Micah's house in albuquerque where I bedded down for the night. Early...ish the next morning I headed out to try for the drive to Daingerfield (where Kate lives). Lenny coughed at about 2 PM, and I thought he was going to die, but before he had the chance I pulled off and went to a gas station. I figured that a few minutes rest and a full tank of gas would do Lenny some good (more advice from Jason).
Lenny went on for a while, but then in the hottest part of the afternoon, right at rush hour I hit Dallas. Lenny did not like Dallas. And the stop and go meant that he died 3 or 4 times trying to get across the city. I finally pulled off the highway and let him cool down for a long time so I could miss traffic.
I got to Daingerfield and stayed with JoAnne and Joseph, Kate's brother and sister-in-law. JoAnne reads my blog, which makes her awesome.
The next day, I drove Kate to Huntsville. It was a short enough trip that Lenny didn't have any problems, which was nice.
And looking at the length of this post, I'm starting to see that I won't get to nearly as much as expected. I'll skip on to the trip to Michigan, and get to the proposal and all that in another post.
While I was home, someone suggested that my car problems might have something to do with a very (VERY) old fuel filter. I changed the filter, with some small trouble due to the fact that I don't have a jack. I should probably fix that at some point.
Anyway, the point is, I changed the filter and hoped that it would help Lenny. It didn't. Or at least not much. He died during the trip. I felt him starting to die, so I pulled off to the side of the road. After I was already on the shoulder, I saw in front of me a cardboard box. It was too late to swerve back into the lane to avoid the box, and I wasn't going to go onto the grass, so I just hit it straight on. Turns out it wasn't a box.
The box was actually a giant brown cinder block, like you see in landscaping. I hit a big piece of concrete with my car.
After some frustrated venting (with no swearing, I'm proud to add) I got out and checked everything out. One piece of plastic molding fell off, but nothing serious was hurt. I was very thankful.
I stayed the night at a motel 6 in Illinois, and let me say, I was underwhelmed. Even for a motel 6, it was rustic. No alarm clock, not even a little bottle of shampoo. Just a bed and a TV and a door that wouldn't deadbolt. I woke up at 5:30, showered, and hit the road nice and early. I was trying to get as many miles down before the roads got crowded, which means I may have been going a little bit over the speed limit. Mom and Dad, please skip to the next paragraph. So, an hour or two into the trip, I was going 110 in a 65 (my speed got away from me, I wasn't trying to go that fast...Lenny just gets excited when he gets to remember his cop days). I saw a highway patrollman, and slowed down but it took me too long. I was still going 90 when he saw me. Whoopsie. Ticket.
So, now Mom and Dad are rejoining us. What you missed is that I am a very responsible driver and a good son.
About 12:30 Sunday afternoon, I pulled into Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I was 2 hours from Ypsilanti (new home), and decided that Lenny and I could both use a good break. He had been good all day, so I wanted to give him a good rest before getting back on the highway. I pulled into a movie theater and watched Knight and Day, which was moderately ammusing, but most of the best bits were in the trailer.
I came out from the movie at about 3, and was totally ready to start up Lenny and get going. When I started Lenny, there were some awful, awful noises coming from under the hood. It sounded like somebody sharpening an axe on one of those old grind-stones. Bad bad news. I popped it, and spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong. After some calls to Jason, some staring under the hood and some serious praying, I guessed that the power steering pump had gone bad, which made me really mad since I just put the dang thing in there.
I found (and by that I mean "Jason found") the only mechanic in town who was open on a Sunday afternoon, but he was closing soon. I limped Lenny over to the mechanic, who was closing as I pulled in. One of the guys there offered to do it as freelance work, so I followed him home. It took forever, and I worried every minute of the way that Lenny wasn't going to make it.
It's an easy enough repair if you have the tools, but I just didn't. So, the guy started pulling off the power steering pump and I saw that the problem wasn't the pump itself, but one of the bolts holding it in. The bolt had worked itself out and was rubbing up against a pulley. The pulley had rubbed the entire head off the bolt. Half an inch of steel. So, that explains the awful noise.
Extremely long story reduced to only long, I got a new bolt, put it in, and got on the road. The mechanic didn't screw me (at least partly because I knew enough to not let him) and his crazy meth head neighbor didn't steal any of my stuff either. All in all, a good experience.
When I got back on the road, it started raining so hard I couldn't see 25 feet. It was frightening. I turned off the radio and started singing hymns about guidance (Lead Kindly Light, for instance) until the rain stopped. Lame as it sounds, it made me feel better.
The rain did stop, and I made it to Michigan. Despite the fact that folks here think street signs are not worth putting up, I found my new house.
And now this post is definitely long enough. More fun stories in another post.