kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
We set no alarms last night and I got almost a full eight hours of sleep. After a nice breakfast in the Tonopah Station Hotel restaurant, we set off for home about 10:45 AM. With only 200 miles to go, we knew we didn't have to rush. We congratulated ourselves for not making the mistake we made on the trip back from San Antonio, where an attempt to drive Las Vegas-Fernley in one day at the end of the trip nearly killed us.

Avoiding the 8 Ball )

About 3:45, we arrived home. The house was in one piece. The various wildfires (and a fire at the asphalt plant across the tracks from us) did not affect our home, thank goodness.

After nearly 1,700 miles driving over the past nine days, we were happy to be home. We unpacked some of the stuff from the minivan, restarted the house (I remembered to turn the water heater on this time) and got the swamp cooler and air conditioning systems running, and tried to relax. I do have to run out and get a few groceries for tonight and for tomorrow morning, which is an ordinary work day for me, but otherwise we're going to try and wind down.

While I'm sorry we couldn't also attend NASFiC this year, I can see that such a trip would have wiped us out. With nearly three weeks planned for the Worldcon trip (for which we set out in just under three weeks), we need some time to recover and prepare for Helsinki. We won't have the luxury of traveling with a minivan-load full of our gear, so we need to think carefully about how to pack.
kevin_standlee: (Atomic Vegas)
Despite IHG Spire members supposedly having 2 PM checkout, the hotel asked us to vacate by 1 PM, which we did manage, but it means I have Day Jobbe work backed up badly.

Because Kingman to Las Vegas is only a bit over 100 miles, we elected to divert over to Laughlin to pick up something at a shop we saw on the way down. To our dismay, when we got there, we found that they were closed July 5-6. It wasn't a total loss because we were able to pick up the Black Bear Diner Bullhead City (#25 in our passport book) that we missed on the trip south.

Heading out of Laughlin, where the thermometer read 46°C, even with the air conditioning turned off, the minivan overheated. Not disastrously so, but enough to where we needed to pull over (at the south entrance to the byway to Christmas Tree Pass, a road suitable only for 4WD vehicles) and let the engine cool down. After it had cooled, we started back up the main highway, using the miserable auxiliary cooling method of during the van's heater on full blast to try and shed more heat. To try and give that heat somewhere to go, we rolled down the windows. The driver's side window got stuck 2/3 down and would not roll back up. We pulled over again and Lisa worked on it. She was able to eventually get it rolled back up again, but we must not roll the window down more than about 10 cm until she can affect permanent repairs.

Passing Interstate 11 )

Our initial hotel in LV was something of a disaster and we balked. Fortunately, it was not yet 6 PM and we were able to get out of the hotel without having to pay for it. It wasn't the staff's fault; it's just that the room was very unsuitable for us. I actually considered paying for three nights at the Bellagio, which would have been quite expensive; however, thanks to a very obliging hotel manager, we ended up at the Staybridge Suites, in a nice room about which I will write more tomorrow after I've dug out from the Day Jobbe backlog and had more rest.

We got in some groceries -- this room has a full kitchen -- and settled in for the first of the three nights we will be in Vegas. Our room has a nice view of the Strip, but for now I just need to get some sleep so I can work a full-plus day tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
Today turned out to be longer driving both in time and distance than planned, but it worked out in the end. We'd initially planned to grab some breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks and get on the road, but all of the stores the Starbucks app showed near us in either Laughlin or across the river in Bullhead City were kiosks in casinos or grocery stores and didn't have the full selection of stuff. With no 'fridge in our room, we couldn't stock our own supplies, so we had breakfast at the Claim Jumper in the Golden Nugget. This was nice enough (the waterfall next to the restaurant was nice), but cost us time. In retrospect, we should have checked: there was a Black Bear Diner in Bullhead City, and we probably would have had a better breakfast there, besides being able to collect a new passport stamp.

After breakfast, we set off across the river and through Bullhead City and what did we find? A standalone Starbucks! We stopped there anyway because it was adjacent to Lowe's and Lisa wanted a couple of things from there. We went into the Starbucks for me to get a coffee for the road. It turns out that the full store (the only one in the area) had only opened yesterday.

Next, on a whim we took a side road that took us partway up the hills onto the Oatman Highway, an early segment of old US-66 and one of the first ones ever cut off when they started cleaning up the road. We didn't go all the way up to Oatman, but even the part we drove seemed a bit hairy to me, with lots of twists and turns. Eventually we ended up down on I-40 for a short segment before we ducked off onto the road for Lake Havasu City.

Welcome to London (Bridge) )

There was a custom t-shirt shop in the English Village from which Lisa commissioned a shirt. The guy said it would take him about an hour, so we drove up to have fish and chips — at the Lake Havasu City Black Bear diner, filling #23 in our passport book.

Bear Has All He Can Eat in the Heat )

After lunch, I dropped a London Bridge postcard into the mail for Kelli at the nearby post office and we headed back to the bridge. Originally we were going to walk across the bridge, but the heat was too much for us, so we simply drove across to the island and back, just to say that we'd done so. We then returned to the Village, collected Lisa's shirt, and left for Tempe.

The heat was sufficiently intense and the minivan old enough that we couldn't run the air conditioning at full (or sometimes at all) when climbing hills or when otherwise working the engine hard. Lisa was driving and kept an eye on the temperature, letting me know when to turn the AC on or off.

Any Shade is Welcome )

At Quartsite we joined eastbound I-10. Lisa kept our speed down in order to spare enough power to run the air conditioning. She drove most of the day, except for a short period when she needed a break and had me drive. We made a final driver change at a familiar-sounding place.

Driving in Circles )

Lisa drove us into Phoenix. By now, it was around 7:30 PM. Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time, and that's a good thing as far as we are concerned. The worst of the Getaway Day rush hour was gone, and we faced no slowdowns across Phoenix, arriving at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe around 8 PM or so. Arriving this early meant we were able to obtain one of the relatively few hotel self-parking spaces. We don't plan to move the van again until we leave on Tuesday. We also could move our things into the hotel in the dark. It was 37°C this evening, warmer than the high temperatures back in Fernley, but again, tolerable out of the direct sun. After getting our personal bags into the hotel, we walked to the CVS store a few blocks away and got some yogurt, milk, and cereal, as this hotel room has a mini-fridge. Finally, we borrowed a bell cart and moved a large load of stuff from the van into the hotel room. There's still more stuff out there, but we won't need it until we do Match Game SF on Monday night.

Fortunately, we have no early commitments to Westercon on Saturday, the first day of the convention. We picked up our membership badges this evening, but could find nothing else going on when we came back from CVS. Tomorrow I have nothing before 1 PM. I think I will not set an alarm for Saturday morning.

Repairs

Jun. 15th, 2017 04:57 pm
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Yesterday, I drove us into Sparks in the Rolling Stone to Big O Tires and we paid about $1300 to redeem the Astro for the repairs, including the rear axle, rear brakes, and front idler arms, but not including the new tires ($550) we bought last week separately. Painful, but it is of course very important to have the van in roadworthy condition, with our trip to Arizona coming up in two weeks.

We left the RV parked in Sparks and drove in the Astro to the Peppermill for dinner, where they didn't even have to ask, but directed us to our regular table. We're so predictable.

Logically, we should have tried to do some shopping after dinner, but I was too tired and we did have to convoy home, so we simply drove back to Sparks, where Lisa got the Astro and we drove home and I soon thereafter fell into bed. My Central Time Zone work hours are convenient for leaving time for errands, but they are unsociable for other reasons.

Another accomplishment yesterday was to book the last hotel room in the Arizona trip: one night at the Riverside in Laughlin, where we'll stay on the outbound trip the night before we arrive in Tempe.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Over the past few days, Lisa and I (mostly Lisa) have unloaded my sister's boxes from the minivan to our storage locker and garage, so yesterday we could put the middle seat back into the Astro, returning it to what we consider its normal configuration. (The rear seat lives in the storage locker except for those rare times when we need seating capacity more than cargo space.) Today, however, we took slight advantage of my Central Time-zone shifted schedule and shortly after I knocked off work for the day, we headed into Reno, where we had dinner at the Peppermill (the server and manager recognized us and commented that it had been a while, which is true) and did a round of grocery shopping. It's certainly a lot less crowded on a Thursday evening than a Saturday afternoon.

Lisa drove us home, and I'm about to fall into bed, since by my body clock it's nearly midnight.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
I left for Yuba City around 7:30 this morning, after having breakfast at the Wigwam. No free breakfast won this week; that's why it's called gambling.

Rabbits and Trains )

It was excellent traveling weather in the morning, and I made good time. I'll write more about the full day later, but it took me to Yuba City, then to Sacramento. I'd packed an overnight bag in case I needed to stay down there, but after stopping for dinner in Auburn around 5:30 PM, I decided to push on home.

Cutting it Close )

Wet snow began to accumulate on the windshield, but not the road. I had some difficulty getting the windshield to clear even with the defroster on full blast. Fortunately, the snow faded away around Floriston, just before the Nevada state line. It rained thereafter off and on until just east of Fernley, where it was windy but dry when I got home. Lisa had a fire going.

In retrospect, although I did get home safely, it would have been more prudent of me to have stopped for the night at Colfax and to have come home tomorrow. But I'm here now and I don't have to travel again until next Sunday. I hope it won't be snowing again then!
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Yesterday's travels went at least as well as could be expected. Even the fact that the California Zephyr was late into Reno was not that big a deal, for while it meant I couldn't get breakfast on the train (service ends 9 AM; the train basically needs to be right on time if you're going to get boarded and your ticket checked with enough time to get to the dining car), it did mean I had time to walk to the Wigwam, have my usual, and win it back on a free-play coupon.

Lisa drove me into Reno and deposited me at the Amtrak station, then headed home. (She'd not slept well and said she was going back to bed.) Amtrak made up some of the time we lost, and soon enough the California Zephyr arrived and I was on my way to the Bay. The train trip was as nice as I could want. Train was not overly crowded. Scenery was very nice, and I took lots of photos this time, but I haven't posted most of them. (Once you get clear of Truckee, you spend a lot of time out of mobile phone/internet range, so there's a backlog.)

At Sacramento, there was a small chance that the dispatcher might release us ahead of the Capitol Corridor service, on account of our train had fewer stops. But doing so would have delayed the Capitol, so we followed it down to Emeryville. Due to the CZ's schedule padding, we actually arrived early at EMY, but not early enough to allow me to make the "negative time" connection to the Capitol train. No matter, however, as there was another one 90 minutes later and I went over to the Emeryville Public Market for dinner before catching the train to Fremont.

The Capitol train had problems. The doors in the leading car wouldn't open, so you had to go down to car 2. The air conditioning in car 2 wasn't working, and today was quite warm. However, the train was lightly loaded, so going back to car 1 wasn't a big deal. You had to reverse that to get out at Fremont due to the non-working doors, but I could manage that. A short walk to my mechanic's shop and behold: my well-used minivan.

Reclaiming the Astro )

After collecting the minivan, I stopped by Suju's Coffee (across from where I used to live in Fremont) to buy a pound of coffee beans from them, then headed out Niles Canyon and the Altamont Pass. The combination of location, price, and IHG loyalty led me to the Holiday Inn Express Tracy last night. I could have pressed on a bit longer, but I did not see the need, and it would have cost me more at other IHG hotels farther up the road. This is not the best IHG property in which I've ever stayed, but the hot tub worked (and I remembered my rarely-used swim trunks), so I got a long soak. This made the tendonitis in my elbow feel better, not to mention my right leg, which woke me up yesterday morning with a bang when the muscled seized up.

Today it's on to Sacramento to visit my sister, then home. Sunday going away from the Bay Area should be a lot lighter traffic than my normal Sunday drive coming toward it to spend a week working down here, something I'm going a lot less often.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
I got to sleep in a little bit on Saturday before heading over to the SFSFC board of directors meeting. After the meeting, I drove to Fremont to rendezvous with Lisa, who drove down from Fernley in the Astro. Thanks in part to some of the clocks in our house still being on standard time, Lisa got away from home later than she planned, which put us a bit behind schedule. After dropping the minivan with my mechanic, we got dinner and then set off for home in the Rolling Stone, with the usual stops at Lodi Junction to refuel and in Sacramento to visit my sister. We got home just before midnight. It was a 600 mile trip for Lisa.

Today got off to a good start with me parleying a win for the cost of my breakfast at the Wigwam Restaurant-Casino from a free-play coupon. There are things we have to do today, but none of them are terribly ambitious, which is good because neither of us feel that ambitious today.
kevin_standlee: (SFSFC)
Off to the SFSFC Board of Directors meeting. Then I meet up with Lisa (who is driving down from Nevada in the minivan). We'll drop the Astro with my mechanic and we'll then drive home in the Rolling Stone. A few weeks from now, we'll reverse the process to collect the minivan, which we hope will then be in better condition for the road trip to Tempe for Westercon this summer.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Today Lisa and I went to Reno/Sparks to deal with accumulated errands and shopping, including getting the minivan's oil changed. We got an oil change just before the Kansas City trip and more than ran through it (and burned up/lost about a quart of oil in the bargain) during that trip. Then it was a round of grocery stores, RV supplies, and clothing stores as we replenished the larder and I bought a new pair of slacks and a shirt — and moved down one shirt size, just barely. I hope that lasts, and is not just temporary stress-related weight loss due to Day Jobbe.

Tomorrow morning we're up fairly early to get me into Reno to catch the California Zephyr to Emeryville and then on to Fremont to collect the RV. Next week I'm in the Bay Area, and then I get to home for two weeks. As I told Lisa while we were driving home, "I want to come home already, and I haven't even left yet!" But at least I don't have to drive there tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Because we refueled the minivan the night before we left and the afternoon after we got home, we have the exact figures for how far we traveled and how much it cost.

Refueling stops: 12
Total distance: 3,719 miles
Total gasoline: 201.249 gallons
Total cost: $428.75

Average cost per gallon: $2.13
Average fuel mileage: 18.5 miles per gallon

The price of fuel for us ranged from a low of $1.929/gal (August 14, Cheyenne WY) to a high of $2.329/gal (August 27, Rock Springs UT).

And we have of course burned through an entire oil change and need to get that dealt with when we have the chance.

The air conditioning system worked fine, and Lisa's somewhat bodged-together-with-tape fix held the entire trip. We still need to have it properly repaired, though.

The doesn't-like-to-start-when-warm bug is still there, so we tended to refuel at the start of the day before we had driven very far, lest we get stuck at a fuel pump unable to restart until the van cooled down. (This did happen once; fortunately the station was not busy.) We liked the drives through the (relatively) cool I-80 corridor through Wyoming. Coming back was more difficult, and in warm weather the van starts to complain at certain points on its power curve.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Thanks to a generous co-worker taking over from me early, we were able to leave Fernley at 1:45 this afternoon, a bit more than an hour earlier than I originally planned. Lisa had been packing the minivan throughout the morning, so when I got the word that I could leave, all I had to do was shut down and pack away my computer, run through the secure-the-property checklist with Lisa, and we could go.

On the Road Again )

It's just as well that we started early, because we lose an hour coming to Wendover, inasmuch as they are on Mountain Time, sensibly enough, given that their clientele is mostly coming from the east. Fortunately, tomorrow's trip is shorter than today's, and so we can afford to start a bit late if necessary.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Lisa and I drove to Reno last night for the final shopping (and a trip to AAA for maps of all of the states along our route of travel — yes, we still use paper maps) before the Worldcon trip, which starts on Thursday afternoon as soon as I can get off work. This was an initial road trip for the repairs Lisa made to the blower motor. Everything seems to be holding. The blower produces plenty of air to keep us comfortable, and the motor didn't burn out for lack of cooling air to itself. Fingers remain crossed that it will hold together for this trip.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
During the trip home from the Bay Area, Lisa looked under the minivan and pointed out that there appeared to be a crack in the muffler. So this afternoon, I was able to get away from Day Jobbe (with some difficulty) at 2:30 and run into Sparks, where I'd made an appointment online at a chain muffler dealership. They were a little dismayed by this as they don't like giving out appointments that late in the day, but they did manage to fit me in. $375 later, I had a new muffler, which I think will help some things with the van. I'd rather have given the work to Cory in Fremont, but there's only so many vehicle shuffles we can do.

After getting the muffler replacement, we went to the Peppermill for dinner, and then played the slots for a while. Lisa hit a hot streak and we ended up slightly money ahead, and also put more points (4x comp point today) into my account. It wasn't far enough ahead to pay for dinner, but it did offset what I lost on the keno ticket.
kevin_standlee: (To Trains)
We do not drive from home to the Bay Area or back via US-50 very often, but we did so on Sunday because we started in Placerville, having visited my friend Rick. As I mentioned on Sunday, Lisa did most of the driving. I had the opportunity to take pictures, but actually only took one.

Descending Into Tahoe )

We're really glad we were not going the other way. The going-home-from-the-lake traffic was backed up for many miles. We had a few stretches of slow traffic, and a slog through South Lake Tahoe itself (partially due to the big golf tournament that was going on along the lake that weekend), but otherwise the drive was relatively smooth.

Side Trip for Trains )

The direct route home would have been to take US-50 to Sliver Springs, but we had shopping we had to do, so we continued up US-395 (taking the low road, not the high road on I-580) to do our shopping and then head home.

Tomorrow I have to take the van into Sparks. Lisa thinks there is a crack in the muffler, and we certainly want that fixed before we head for Kansas City.
kevin_standlee: (Match Game SF)
We packed most of the Match Game gear and much of our traveling kit into the Astro last night when it wasn't so hot. Lisa is very good at packing the vehicles. Things that are heat-sensitive or very obviously valuable we'll put in just before we go. We're mostly ready to go except for our "hand baggage" and the fact that I'm still at work for a while. When I'm released (I hope no later than 2 PM), we'll finish packing and hit the road for Alturas, the first leg of our trip up to Portland and Westercon.

At least two banker's boxes are MGSF prizes, some of which are now sufficiently old that every contestant is going to get one, win or lose, until they're gone. This will (we hope) make the return trip lighter.

This time we remembered the MGSF banners. We've forgotten them in the past, which is annoying. And now we have nice permanent vinyl banners, thanks to Sasquan who made them for us last year.

Looking at how difficult it was to fit everything into the minivan, Lisa said she's relieved we decided to not try and carry the show to Kansas City in August.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
The seats in the Astro look and feel like seats in a van that has been on the road for 450,000 miles and 27 years.

Well Worn Seats )

Having the seats completely reupholstered was not in our budget, but we went to a place called Motor Sheep in Reno today, having ordered sheepskin seat covers from them a few weeks ago. We left the Astro with them this morning, went to the Peppermill for breakfast, and when we came back, we had much more comfortable seats, albeit that the original seats, warts and all, are still under these seat covers.

Kuma Bear Says, 'This is comfies!' )

Yes, of course it would have been better overall to spend a lot more money to have the seats completely redone, but for $400 we now have significantly more comfortable seats, and with two long road trips ahead of us this summer, that's important. I wish we'd done this years ago.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
The Rolling Stone handles much better now that the rear springs have been replaced, and more importantly, the rear brakes have been completely rebuilt. (They were close to completely failing.) However, my mechanic did not have enough time to address the fuel transfer switch problem, so I'm still stuck with the smaller (15 gallon) fuel tank, which isn't a huge amount of range when you only get 9 miles to the gallon.

The original plan was to have Lisa come down next Friday to collect me again, as we did three weeks ago. However, working on various logistics leading up to Westercon (for which we leave a week from Tuesday), we concluded that this simply won't work. So I'll drive the RV home a week from Friday and back down after Westercon. This means extra fuel stops, but it can't be helped. Lisa will then come and collect me on a Friday so I can leave the RV with my mechanic for a week while he fixed the fuel issue, and I'll take the train down as I did last Sunday. I should then be able to drive the RV home with a full fuel load (meaning only one refueling necessary, and that at one of the most economical locations).

What this also means is that we won't be able to get the Astro in to Cory for him to do some other work the minivan needs any time soon. The driver's door needs some work, and my mechanic has the parts, but we don't have the right combination of weeks to make this work out. We should have started sooner. The issue isn't affecting the minivan being able to run. And nobody has been able to figure out how to fix the actual engine issue, which is that the van does not like to start when it it warm. During summer driving like the Kansas City trip, if we ever stop when the vehicle has warmed up, we need to allow at least half an hour for it to cool down sufficiently to restart. This imposes certain operational constraints, such as trying to always refuel at the start of the day.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
It's not pleasant here today in the Reno/Sparks/Fernley area, but it could be much worse. We could be in Las Vegas. Or worse, Phoenix. 45°C! It makes the weather here in Northern Nevada (ten degrees cooler) seem positively Arctic by comparison. Nevertheless, we're going to stay indoors near the swamp cooler (which works well in the dry air) now tht we're back from Reno.

Fortunately, my minivan's air conditioning is working well as we went to Reno this morning to do some grocery shopping and deal with maintenance issues on the Astro, preparatory to the Westercon trip coming up at the end of the month. Lisa also did some mechanical repairs last night, fixing the spring on the hood so it will actually open and improvising a metal L-bracket to make the front grille stop rattling until we have time to go to the Pick-a-Part place and see if we can track down a replacement.

I'm very happy that getting an oil change fixed a rattle and some performance issues. The Astro needs to run well for these long road trips.
kevin_standlee: (House)
All electrical items are working normally today, although we will have to be careful about what we use and when. For example, it would be prudent to turn off the hot water heater when using the dryer. In the meantime, we are evaluating alternatives for buying a 125 Zinsco-type (the older style) circuit breakers, because what few new ones in stores (not many; it's an older design no longer used in new builds) are made in China and we don't trust their quality.

On a different subject, we got the oil changed in the Astro yesterday, and it was good to hear, or rather not hear, the sounds that the minivan had been making prior to the oil change. We were a half-quart low on the refill, and Lisa says she thinks the sound was a sticking lifter caused by low oil. It's good that the oil change made it run better, because we're getting pretty close to Westercon and our road trip there. I also need to get the tires rotated before that trip, because it's well overdue.

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